Supporting Our Rural Communities
Although 1 in 5 Americans live in rural areas and 97 percent of land in the United States is considered to be rural, many of our rural communities have often been economically, socially, and politically left behind. Maryland’s rural towns are far from homogenous and are home to a diverse number of industries that are vital to the fabric of our state — from farming to manufacturing to recreation and the arts. Our communities in western Maryland, southern Maryland, and on the Eastern Shore are indispensable. They need investments and resources to thrive. Our Comptroller must ensure that every part of the state is meeting its full economic potential – including our rural areas.
Universal Broadband Connecting Every Community & Family in Rural Maryland
The pandemic exposed how critical affordable, reliable access to the internet is for all Marylanders. Without broadband, families are unable to access online school and telehealth appointments, apply for benefits online, work remotely, or access goods and services. Local governments and first responders are hampered in their ability to meet the needs of their communities. Businesses have struggled to adapt to a digital platform so they can keep revenue flowing and grow their business, and farmers have been unable to leverage the latest technology to improve their operations. While short term programs to connect people with WiFi hotspots and subsidies are valuable during the current crisis, they don’t close the access gap and are not a sustainable, future-proof solution. As Comptroller, Brooke will call for leveraging federal and state dollars and private sector collaboration to build the infrastructure we need to connect every household and provide the training and support to make sure people can use digital services and devices.
- Expand the jurisdiction of the Office of Rural Broadband to cover all communities in MD
- Advocate for additional funding to ensure complete connectivity
- Work with state partners to create digital literacy program to help people learn how to use digital services and devices
Investing in Rural Community Assets & Infrastructure
Maryland is stronger when our rural communities and families are thriving. Our small towns are home to talented people and rural places are full of natural and cultural resources that enrich our lives. In order to make sure that young people growing up in rural places can build their futures there and new residents can see the opportunity in small towns, we need to invest in core assets and infrastructure. These assets – including schools, hospitals, affordable and safe housing, and downtown businesses – create social capital, a sustainable economic base and more livable communities. As Comptroller, Brooke will call for targeted investments in rural community infrastructure.
- Support rural schools by updating aging infrastructure, investing in rural teachers, and ensuring rural schools fully benefit from the Education Blueprint
- Make better health and health care more accessible to rural residents by advocating for investments in mobile health units, transportation, public health services and telehealth while offering incentives to develop, attract, and retain practitioners in rural places.
- Work with state partners to fund programs that support the creation of affordable housing options and the renovation of existing housing stock so that it is more energy efficient and livable.
- Strengthen community financing programs that support local economic development efforts, particularly programs that invest in downtowns and historic community assets.
Accessing 21st-Century Education & Jobs
All rural students deserve access to 21st-century tools and instruction that will set them up to be future innovators and problem-solvers. That means, along with universal broadband, we need to invest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs as well as provide cutting edge technology education. Every career pathway – whether healthcare, agriculture, advanced manufacturing, creative arts, or education requires technological fluency and skill. We should be ensuring that all residents – from our rural communities to our suburbs to our urban centers – have access to industrusty specific digital skills training and pathways to employment, including jobs that can be done remotely. Brooke will support investments in innovative solutions for access to education and job training.
- Partner with rural-serving institutions in the University of Maryland system to support collaborations with local businesses and schools to provide work-based learning opportunities and support for regional economic development efforts
- Incentivize hiring for tech-based jobs in rural locales, including remote jobs, by offering targeted tax assistance or credits
- Encourage relocation or “returning home” to rural communities by working on creative solutions, like providing student loan forgiveness or home buying assistance to individuals who move to qualifying rural areas and bring their remote job with them or work locally
Supporting Rural Entrepreneurs
Today’s entrepreneurs are tomorrow’s employers. Communities are more resilient and better able to weather recessions and disruptions like the pandemic when they have a diverse economic base powered by many types of businesses. Our state is stronger when we provide opportunities for talented people everywhere. Rather than focus only on attracting and retaining larger employers in rural areas, we need to support local efforts to develop an ecosystem that can support a diversity of entrepreneurs across multiple sectors, including agriculture, aquaculture, clean energy, tech, healthcare, and professional services. Brooke will use the Comptroller’s Office, in collaboration with the Department of Commerce, to:
- Creating a statewide rural entrepreneurship network to connect rural entrepreneurs to resources and networks in all geographies, including clusters of talent and capacity associated with University of Maryland institutions
- Leverage state financing programs such as those operated by Maryland Economic Development Corporation to support the creation of downtown innovation hubs, including coworking space and entrepreneurship support
- Ensure rural entrepreneurs have access to capital by creating a statewide Rural Innovation seed fund to provide early stage capital to rural startups
- Read more about Brooke’s plan to support small businesses
- During the pandemic, Brooke has brought together dozens of churches, community groups, and community school coordinators to ensure that working together, we can close holes in the social safety net. When an organization in her district needs an ally, they turn to Brooke. She has passed legislation at the state level to support our communities, and also brings that work home to the grassroots level.
- Brooke was instrumental in the formation of the Greater Baybrook Alliance (GBA), a community development organization uniquely positioned to pursue neighborhood revitalization across three Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County neighborhoods. Since its inception in 2017, GBA has brought in over $5 million in revitalization funds, supported and launched community initiatives from housing to economic development to public safety, and coordinated a community-wide response to COVID-19. Brooke has provided hands-on support, including development of the Board and Executive Director, advocating for state and local resources, and building critical partnerships with World Central Kitchen, local foundations, and others.
- Brooke believes in the need for community-driven decisions. She uses her role as Delegate to bring stakeholders together for important conversations to inform proposed projects and policies so that all parties are heard and solutions that work best for everyone are developed.
- Brooke sponsored legislation creating a tax credit to incentivize developers within opportunity zones.