For the past 8 years, Lt. Governor Becky Skillman has directed the state Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA), an agency she helped create. Now she is about to turn it over to a new administration. At the Indiana Rural Summit, underway in Indianapolis, Skillman said farewell to a state agency she established, “In 2005, the Office of Rural affairs was part of the Department of Commerce, and I felt rural communities were getting shortchanged.” As a state senator, Skillman authored legislation to mandate a state rural strategy. When she became Lt. Governor, she got the opportunity to implement that strategy by establishing OCRA.
Skillman said that Indiana rural communities have come a long way in the past 8 years and that the OCRA has made a difference by bringing over 200 million dollars in economic development to rural Indiana communities. She is especially proud of the foreign investment that has been made in rural areas which has brought thousands of new jobs to rural communities. She said her many trade missions have helped rural towns connect with other rural areas around the world, “For example, we have 22 small town mayors who have established sister city relationships with cities in China. That is something that was unheard of just a few years ago.” She told HAT she is very excited that these relationships are bring foreign investments to rural Indiana.
While Skillman is pleased with the work OCRA has done, she says not all the goals were reached, “Eight years goes by so fast, the clock just ran out on a few things.” She said the economic downturn that began in 2008 made it very difficult to accomplish some of the projects she had hoped to finish. She said the floods of 2008 were a high watermark for OCRA as it was instrumental is delivery aid to rural areas hit hard by the disaster.
In a little over a month, Skillman will turn over control of the agency to Sue Elsperman, the new Lt. Governor. Skillman, who met with Elsperman on Wednesday afternoon, said her successor is well qualified to address the needs of rural Indiana, “She is a small town gal who knows very well the needs and desires of people who live in rural communities.” Elsperman will make her first appearance at the rural summit on Thursday, to outline her vision for rural Indiana communities.
[audio:https://www.hoosieragtoday.com//wp-content/uploads//2012/11/ruralsumitwrap.mp3|titles=Skillman Relinquishes Reins of OCRA ]