United States Department of Agriculture
Rural Community Development Initiative
The purpose of this document is to summarize the Rural Community Development
Initiative (RCDI) and to describe how organizations may use it to implement geographic
information system (GIS) technology to benefit projects in low-income rural areas.
Applications for the RCDI program are due October 10, 2006. Matching funds are
required and are described below.
Purpose of the Grant
The Rural Community Development Initiative program provides grants to qualified
intermediary organizations that will provide financial and technical assistance to
recipients to develop their capacity and ability to undertake projects related to housing,
community facilities, or community and economic development.
RCDI grant funds must be used in ways that are consistent with the RCDI purpose
including, but not limited to, the following:
Provide financial and technical assistance to develop recipients' capacity and
ability to undertake projects related to housing, community facilities, or
community and economic development.
Develop the capacity of recipients to conduct community development programs
(for example, homeownership education or training for business entrepreneurs).
Develop the capacity of recipients to conduct development initiatives (for
example, programs that support microenterprise and sustainable development).
Develop the capacity of recipients to increase their leveraging ability and access
to alternative funding sources by providing training and staffing.
Develop the capacity of the recipients to provide the financial and technical
assistance component for essential community facilities projects.
Assist recipients in completing predevelopment requirements for housing,
community facilities, or community and economic development projects by
providing resources for professional services.
Improve recipients' organizational capacity by providing training and resource
material on developing strategic plans, board operations, management, financial
systems, and information technology.
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Purchase computers, software, and printers at the recipient level.
Provide funds to recipients for training-related travel costs and training expenses.
Grant applicants (intermediary organizations) can apply for between $50,000 and
$300,000. Approximately $6 million is available for distribution. The project period for
this program is up to three years from the date of the award.
The recipient must be a private, nonprofit, community-based housing and
development organization, a low-income rural community, or a federally recognized
The recipient and beneficiary, but not the intermediary, must be located in an eligible
The intermediary must work directly with the recipient as an organization, not the
The intermediary organization must show it has a program that includes both
financial and technical assistance to the recipient.
Eligible applicants (intermediary organizations) include state governments; nonprofit
organizations with 501(c)(3) status; private institutions of higher education; public or
Native American housing authorities; public- and state-controlled institutions of
higher education; county, city, or township governments; and federally recognized
Native American tribal governments.
Recipients and beneficiaries must meet specific criteria to qualify as both rural and
low income, with more points available for smaller and lower-income communities.
For complete eligibility requirements, see the link below to the full grant guidelines and
Matching funds at least equivalent to the amount requested are required for this initiative,
and these funds must be monetary (not in-kind) commitments.
What Is GIS?
GIS technology helps create and store data resources that include spatial information
(location, proximity, distance). GIS technology enables computer and Internet map
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displays, map-based queries, spatial queries, and spatial processes. Local officials,
professionals, decision makers, and the public at large can read and analyze large
quantities of information when displayed in map form.
How GIS Is Applicable to the Grant Goals
GIS technology has a long history of use in community and economic development and
planning fields. GIS technology has become central to the tasks of planning,
communicating, and implementing economic and community development efforts in
large municipalities but is not as accessible to smaller communities due to startup costs of
database development and a lack of qualified staff. RCDI can help bring this useful tool
to rural areas and assist recipients with developing GIS databases and using GIS
successfully. GIS technology can overlay community characteristics, such as major roads
or freight lines, existing businesses, parcel size, ownership, vacancy, and demographics,
on a map to help decision makers select appropriate places to target business or housing.
GIS can help create a map of a community's assets and/or deficits as part of a strategic
plan. GIS technology on the Internet can be used to create static or interactive maps that
can market a community.
In one example, the Delaware Rural Housing Consortium, a collaboration of nonprofit
rural housing developers, created a three-year plan to build affordable housing for 750
families. To locate potential sites, the consortium used ESRI's ArcGIS and ArcGIS
Spatial Analyst, considering current land use, water availability, zoning, proximity to
other development, and socioeconomic census data. For more information, see
"Analyzing Suitability of Land for Affordable Housing," presented by Svatos and
Doucette at the 2003 ESRI International User Conference.
In another example, the Cornell University GIS project (Sibley Consulting) analyzed the
use of data and technology with the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI), a
community-based organization. The community-university partnership focused on
community economic development, utilizing GIS to map and assess land use (including
affordable housing), community asset identification, and economic development. Its
paper, "Building Internal Community Capacity through Technology: Sibley Consulting
and DSNI," presented at the 2005 ESRI International User Conference, gives excellent
details concerning the process, software, and data involved in beginning a GIS
geodatabase for housing and community economic development projects.
For more information on using GIS in housing, community, and economic development,
please see ESRI's Government Industries Web site, which provides information on using
GIS in state and local government, urban and regional planning, and economic
A program of financial and technical assistance to rural recipients to assist with housing,
economic, and community development can include
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Purchase of a computer, printer, and easy-to-use desktop software
Purchase of equipment and software for field data collection of spatial
information on handheld devices equipped with GPS and GIS functionality
Training on software use
Technical assistance in acquiring, adapting, and developing underlying GIS
databases including providing staff to digitize or collect data in the field
Technical assistance in performing GIS analyses and creating cartographic output
for printing (paper) and publishing via the Internet
Software and Data Solutions for the RCDI Program
ArcView provides geographic data visualization, query, analysis, and integration
capabilities along with the ability to create and edit geographic data. ArcView is a stand-
alone GIS as well as the entry point to ArcGIS, a family of GIS software products.
ArcView is often used by local government for zoning and land-use assessment.
ArcPad is a mobile GIS technology. ArcPad provides database access, mapping, GIS,
and GPS integration to users out in the field via handheld and mobile devices. ArcPad
makes field data collection fast and easy, improves accuracy, and provides immediate
data availability and validation. When a user is finished editing data in the field, changes
and additions can be uploaded into the master database in the office. Data can also be
provided from the Internet via wireless technology.
ArcGIS Spatial Analyst provides a broad range of powerful spatial modeling and
analysis features. With ArcGIS Spatial Analyst, the user can perform capability,
sensitivity, and predictive modeling; demographic and land-use analysis; and much more.
For example, the Delaware Rural Housing Consortium used Spatial Analyst to locate
potential sites for affordable housing.
ArcGIS Publisher converts map documents (MXD) to published map files (PMF).
PMFs contain instructions about the location and symbology of data layers including
geodatabase connectivity and Internet connections. PMFs are viewable through
ArcReader, a free downloadable product from ESRI.
ArcIMS is the solution for delivering dynamic maps and GIS data and services via the
Web. Using ArcIMS, city and local governments, businesses, and other organizations
worldwide publish, discover, and share geospatial information through intranets and the
Internet. Many communities publish GIS information over the Internet to market their
assets and draw in new businesses (see the online resources below for examples). In
addition to offering the software solution for Internet GIS publishing, ESRI also offers
special hardware bundles for ArcIMS users.
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ArcExplorer lets users display and query GIS services, geographic content, and
other Web services. Users can pan and zoom through multiple map layers and
identify, locate, and query geographic and attribute data. ArcExplorer can be used
with a variety of GIS services such as those published using ArcIMS. ArcExplorer is
a no cost downloadable product from ESRI and will be available with the release of
ArcWeb Services are ESRI's hosted GIS Web services and offer a data solution,
allowing access to GIS content and capabilities over the Web on demand when
needed. Because data storage, maintenance, and updates are handled by ESRI,
ArcWeb Services eliminate the overhead of purchasing and maintaining large
datasets. ArcWeb Services offer access to data such as street maps, live weather
maps, digital orthophoto quarter quadrangles (DOQQs), topographic maps, live
traffic information, census data, shaded relief imagery, flood data, and more.
Business Analyst Online provides access to demographic, consumer, and business data
reports and maps via the Web. Companies, government agencies, and nonprofit
organizations can use Business Analyst Online to profile customers, analyze potential site
locations, reveal untapped markets, and conduct targeted marketing campaigns.
Training Solutions for the RCDI Program
The key to a successful GIS implementation is training. ESRI has training products that
cover a wide range of GIS topics and employ a variety of delivery methods. ESRI's
training solutions match people in an organization to instructor-led classroom training,
self-study Web-based training, and self-study workbooks according to their learning
styles and training needs.
ESRI's instructor-led courses teach GIS concepts, explore GIS applications, and train
people to use the company's GIS software and related technologies. Classes are taught at
numerous learning centers in the United States and at all of ESRI's regional office
locations. Training materials normally include lecture notes, exercises, and exercise data
in high-quality printed or digital format.
ESRI Virtual Campus offers self-study GIS training and education via the Web, allowing
students to expand their knowledge of GIS anywhere and at any time. Web-based courses
cover a variety of topics related to GIS science and technology including courses that
teach ESRI software. Virtual Campus offers more than 100 Web-based courses.
Introduction to ArcGIS I is a two-day, instructor-led course that provides the foundation
for becoming a successful ArcGIS user. Students learn fundamental GIS concepts and
become familiar with the range of functionality available in ArcGIS. In course exercises,
they work with ArcGIS Desktop and see how it provides a complete GIS software
solution. This course is designed for those who are new to ArcGIS and to GIS in general.
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Learning ArcGIS 9 is a Virtual Campus (Web-based) course that introduces fundamental
concepts of GIS and the major functionality contained within ArcGIS software. In course
exercises, students follow the GIS analytical process and work with a variety of ArcGIS
tools to solve realistic problems. This course emphasizes practical GIS skills. Students
learn basic GIS concepts and become familiar with the range of core ArcGIS software
capabilities and tools. This course is designed for those who are new to ArcGIS and to
GIS in general.
Introduction to Urban and Regional Planning is a Virtual Campus (Web-based) course
that covers basic urban and regional planning concepts and tasks and teaches how those
tasks can be managed using GIS techniques and ArcGIS Desktop software. Students
learn how to use ArcGIS tools to address real-world social, economic, and environmental
planning problems. The skills and techniques presented in the course provide an effective
and efficient means of carrying out urban and regional planning tasks. This course is
designed for professional urban and regional planners in both private and public
organizations. Students should have taken either Learning ArcGIS 9 or Introduction to
ArcGIS I or have a basic knowledge of ArcGIS 9 before taking this course.
Online Resources for GIS in Housing, Community Development, and
Analyzing Suitability of Land for Affordable Housing
Building Internal Community Capacity through Technology: Sibley Consulting and
Now Open for Business: City of Westerville, Ohio
The City of Quinte West, Ontario, Canada, Uses GIS for Economic Development
Regional GIS Promotes Economic Development
Promoting Economic Development in Kingsport, Tennessee: A Web-Based Approach
ESRI's Government Industries Web Site
Link to Full Grant Guidelines and Application Instructions
Please note that this sample text outlines the ways that GIS is applicable to the RCDI
program and is neither meant to be a full description of the Rural Community
Development Initiative program nor a guideline for proposals. To assess your project's
applicability, please see the funding agency's complete grant guidelines and application
instructions at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/rhs/rcdi/index.htm.
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Need Assistance with Your Grant Application?
For pricing of software, services, or training available from ESRI or if you need
assistance in responding to this grant, contact Marj Dougherty, ESRI grant coordinator, at
208-286-0220 or email@example.com.
Deadline to Apply: October 10, 2006
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