SILOS AND SMOKESTACKS
Federal Funding Gap for Silos & Smokestacks to Impact Northeast Iowa Communities
Northeast, IA - Federal funding for an important Iowa-based economic development, educational and cultural preservation entity could be in jeopardy; with a potential negative impact on countless Northeast Iowa communities located within the 37-county Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area (SSNHA).
Federally designated in 1996 for its distinct cultural landscape, SSNHA preserves and shares America's agricultural and agri-industrial stories in a 20,000-square-mile region of Northeast Iowa. One of 49 National Heritage Areas (NHA) working in affiliation with the National Park Service (NPS) to preserve significant pieces of America's story, SSNHA has utilized a network of regional partnerships and national programs to educate millions of people, both young and old, on the global impact of American agriculture. In addition to preserving this important part of America's story, investment in these projects has stimulated a positive economic impact within Heritage Area communities. While the region's unique designation will always exist, a delay by the U.S. Congress to reauthorize SSNHA and 11 other NHAs who share a "sunset" date of September 30, 2012, has put future federal funding for the SSNHA coordinating entity in jeopardy.
Despite passing a continuing resolution to fund the federal government through March 27, 2013, with level funding for the NHA program, SSNHA and the other 11 NHAs will be unable to access this vital funding without being reauthorized. While reauthorization does not necessarily guarantee funding, it acts as permission to receive federal funds that are available for the program.
Reauthorization was put in place to allow the federal government to assess the success of this public-private partnership based on formal evaluations of the program. Final evaluations haven't yet been released for all of the individual NHAs, though preliminary findings have demonstrated the program to be extremely successful in preserving these important cultural landscapes, with strong grassroots support and relatively little federal investment. A study by the Alliance of National Heritage Areas revealed a 5:1 ratio of private to federal dollars, a return on investment rarely found in government programs.
With countless success stories, support for SSNHA and the broader NHA Program is at its highest level ever. In the U.S. Congress, SSNHA has received bipartisan support from both Senator Tom Harkin (D) and Senator Charles Grassley (R). The NPS has also displayed support for the program, with Director John Jarvis speaking out in favor of the NHA approach and proposed NHA Program Legislation (HB 4099), which Congress has yet to act on. Under Program Legislation, NHAs would have a more formal structure under the NPS and each NHA would receive base funding to cover general administrative support. NHAs would be responsible for raising funds through other sources to cover additional projects and programs.
Recently, the SSNHA Foundation was established to support the work of the Heritage Area and the SSNHA coordinating entity has been diversifying program funds through a combination of individual, foundation and corporate support. While SSNHA has been proactive in preparing for NHA Program Legislation and the move toward a more sustainable funding model less reliant on federal support, this immediate cut to funding may make bridging that gap much more difficult. Also, once Program Legislation is enacted, if Congress fails to reauthorize the 12 NHAs, they won't be eligible for potential base funding.
To date, SSNHA has helped fund more than 300 projects dedicated to preserving America's agricultural story, along with technical assistance to thousands of other community-based projects, sharing America's agricultural story with over 2.5 million visitors annually. Additionally, SSNHA youth educational programs connect hundreds of thousands of students with agriculture and where their food comes from, with extensive private monetary support for these programs. Without federal support to cover the costs of administration during this transition period, the future of many of these programs remains uncertain.
SSNHA is one of 49 federally designated heritage areas in the nation and is Affiliated Area of the National Park Service. The Heritage Area covers 37 counties in the northeast quadrant of Iowa. Interstate 80 borders it on the south and Interstate 35 borders it on the west. Through a network of sites, programs and events, SSNHA interprets farm life, agribusiness, and rural communities-past and present.
(CONTACT: Don Short, President, Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area, email@example.com, Office: 319.234.4567; Cell: 563.920.0955 or Aaron Steinmann, Marketing & Communications Manager, Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area, firstname.lastname@example.org, Office: 319.234.4567; Cell: 563.593.4521)