Last month, USDA Rural Development’s Delaware - Maryland State Office and the State Office staff in New York hosted roundtable discussions on Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) availability. RLF programs are unique programs that provide funds to local and regional organizations to capitalize and operate revolving loan funds. Revolving loan funds are used to assist with business financing and economic development activities to create and/or retain jobs in disadvantaged and remote communities. As such, these are programs that have great potential for meeting USDA’s rural economic mandate in a time of scarce federal funding.
Letitia Nichols, Business and Cooperative Program Director began the Delaware/Maryland roundtable by providing an overview of the purpose of the roundtable. The objective was to address the unique issues related to RLFs. The roundtable provided for the exchange of ideas, concerns, successes, failures, resources, and more that affect the utilization of RLF portfolios, with particular emphasis on the Intermediary Relending Program (IRP).
The roundtable discussion centered mainly on the following five discussion questions:
- What are the strengths of the RLF programs?
- What are your proven “best practices” in finding deals?
- What are the pressing issues facing the RLF programs?
- What other barriers and challenges to capital access for the small business community do you face?
- How should we collaborate to make the situation better?
In New York State, meetings took place in Livingston, Oswego and Montgomery counties – composed of past and potential program recipients. Joining USDA staff were representatives from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Operation Oswego County (OOC) and many more. The goal was to bring everyone together to facilitate a conversation that would ultimately foster new partnerships and investments for small businesses in rural communities across the state.
Since 2010, USDA has invested more than $195 million across the country in support of rural businesses. In New York State, businesses like Cortland Plastics International received a $50,000 IRP loan to expand their warehouse and production capacity; which included the acquisition of state of the art equipment. This project alone helped to create almost 55 full time jobs. In addition, numerous other success stories are happening around the state and indeed across the country.
See Business and Cooperative Programs for more information on how we can assist with business development.