Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill: A meaningful swipe at shoring up rural futures


Hi, everyone, 

I’m Whitney Kimball Coe, and I’m Vice President of National Programs for the Center for Rural Strategies. We’re  focused on supporting rural people and places across the country through compelling and authentic use of communications and media. 

I’m also a Tennessean and a rural homecomer. I came back to my hometown of Athens, Tennessee after college to raise my family and be part of the next generation of leadership in this community. 

It’s a special thing to be part of the life of a community in a generational way—my children now attend the same schools I did growing up. They experience many of the same community ties and connections I enjoyed, as well: running into people you know every day at the grocery store or at the Waffle House, participating in community theatre at our local arts center, occupying the same pew we always did at church each Sunday. 

My children’s lives are a web of beautiful relationships and connections to people and places in our state. 

But I know that my kids also deserve a future in rural Tennessee that connects them to those people and places in very concrete ways. They deserve sturdy bridges and reliable roads, clean water and clean energy, robust employment opportunities, and fiber to our digital marketplaces. 

I believe the infrastructure of our lives must match the quality of the connections and relationships that we cultivate in our communities. 

This new Bipartisan Infrastructure Law takes a meaningful swipe at shoring up the future for my kids and our state through billions of dollars in investments in the fibers, roads, waterways, and bridges that connect us to one another. The building blocks of our lives and economies.

These investments will touch on the foundational aspects of our lives here in Tennessee: billions of dollars for bridge and highway improvements and repairs; $630 million to improve public transportation; $100 million to improve broadband connection, affordability, and adoption across the state; $17 million to protect against wildfires—for those of us living near and around the Smoky Mountains, that’s huge.


We live in an age that is often defined by our divides across politics, geography, and identity. What an incredible time to invest in the things that bring us back to each other—that help us stay connected, nourished, and hopeful.

I’m excited for what the BIL will mean for Tennessee—and how it will help us strengthen our connections with one another.

Whitney Kimball Coe is the director of National Programs at the Center for Rural Strategies. In that role, she leads the Rural Assembly, a nationwide movement striving to build better policy and more opportunity for rural communities across the country. As an organizer, speaker, moderator, and writer, Whitney has shared her perspectives on community and civic courage with audiences around the world. She has been featured on stage at the Aspen Ideas Festival and the inaugural Obama Foundation Summit, and as a guest on the radio program On Being with Krista Tippett.

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