GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and some of her administration officials held a roundtable discussion Friday to discuss challenges that the state Office of Rural Development is working to tackle.

When the governor created the office within the Michigan Department of Agriculture, she said it was in recognition of unique challenges and opportunities in rural communities. Department of Agriculture Director Gary McDowell said in November that the office would focus directly on those small towns and rural areas.

During Friday’s virtual roundtable, some of the struggles for those areas were described. They included finding housing, jobs and medical services.

The governor says because the state has an abundance of money, mostly federal dollars, right now, this is the time to invest in those communities.

“How do we set a path that is really going to be transformational and how do we ensure that rural communities are a part of driving what that agenda looks like? And that’s what I’m really hoping are successful in,” Whitmer said. “That’s my personal goal, that’s my goal as your governor, that’s my goal as a Michigander who’s going to live here for the rest of my life. I want to see opportunity in all communities across the state.”

McDowell previously said that many of the problems facing rural communities were exacerbated by the pandemic but the underlying problems have been around for years.