Brad Finstad understands rural Minnesota.

Having grown up in that setting and served in various capacities related to rural Minnesota in both the public and private sector, Finstad has a handle on the issues communities are facing.

In addition, Finstad served as a legislative aid and then as a state representative, so he has an understanding of how government works.

All of that experience will serve Finstad well in his newest role as state director of USDA rural development.

“It is quite an honor for me to serve in this role,” said Finstad, adding he was appointed by President Trump. “My whole career has been related to working in and for rural Minnesota.”

In the role of state director, Finstad said he serves as the eyes and ears of rural development needs for Sonny Perdue, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, adding he works with the staff of the rural development office to understand what the greatest needs are and how rural development can meet them.

“We have 40 programs that offer funding through loans and grants to help address the needs of rural Minnesota,” said Finstad, adding the goal is to help create jobs and economic opportunities for the state all in an effort to improve the overall quality of life. 

As he has moved into the new role, Finstad said he knows one of the most significant issues facing rural communities is childcare.

“There is a childcare shortage across the state,” said Finstad, adding USDA rural development wants to work to create partnerships that can help address this issue.

Sitting down at the table with regional leaders to learn what can be done and to see what efforts that are in place are working is an important step to tackling this problem, said Finstad.

Whether that means helping develop childcare centers or finding ways for communities to be creative, Finstad said USDA rural development wants to be involved.

Another issue Finstad sees as one where his office can help is in access to broadband.

“There are more than 250,000 people in rural Minnesota who are considered unserved or underserved when it comes to broadband access,” said Finstad, adding he wants to help find ways to connect people with broadband as it is becoming more and more of a necessity.

Digging in and finding ways to address those areas that are unserved is a priority, said Finstad.

Another major challenge facing rural Minnesota is the opioid epidemic, Finstad said, adding he intended to dig into this issue more to find out how his office can help to align resources and provide the help needed to help.

There are 12 USDA rural development regional offices located in Minnesota that Finstad oversees.

Whether it is working with communities to improve aging wastewater or sewer infrastructure or sitting down to address the hot button issues of the day, Finstad said he wants to be involved in improving rural Minnesota to ensure those who call it home can have that high quality of life.

“It’s about being sustainable and moving forward toward the new normal that is the future of rural Minnesota,” said Finstad, adding he is excited to have the opportunity to be part of making it happen.