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USDA Celebrates National Small Business Week

Posted by Lisa Mensah, Under Secretary, USDA Rural Development in Rural
May 04, 2016
Grand Union Hotel owner Cheryl Gagnon giving Under Secretary Lisa Mensah a tour of the renovated historic hotel in Fort Benton, Montana
Grand Union Hotel owner Cheryl Gagnon gives Under Secretary Lisa Mensah a tour of the renovated historic hotel in Fort Benton, Montana. The Gagnons used a Business & Industry Loan Guarantee to finance the rehabilitation, along with financing from a revolving loan through Bear Paw Development funded by USDA’s Intermediary Relending Program. Just another example of how USDA Rural Development helps America's rural small businesses.

America’s economy rides on the wheels of small businesses.

The U.S. Small Business Administration says more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business. The contributions of these firms will be honored May 1-7 during National Small Business Week -- #DreamSmallBiz -- and USDA Rural Development is proud to join in the celebration.

As the leading federal agency working exclusively to foster economic opportunity in rural America, Rural Development knows Main Street businesses drive the rural economy. Money earned and spent at a small town “mom-and-pop” store, or a small-scale manufacturer gets re-invested locally.

As Under Secretary, I oversee a dedicated team that provides technical assistance and financing to help rural small businesses save and create jobs, get access to capital, and increase economic opportunity for all who call rural America home.  Our programs provide job training, business development opportunities, and strategic and regional development assistance to help rural Main Street businesses grow and prosper.

While urban-based firms often have many financial and other resources to draw upon, businesses in rural areas often lack the same.  Our programs attempt to level the playing field a bit by tailoring assistance to meet the unique needs of rural-based businesses. For example, our Rural Economic Development Loan & Grant program provides funding to rural projects through local utility organizations.  USDA provides zero-interest loans to local utilities which they pass through to help local businesses create or retain jobs. Think about that: The rural power company that keeps the lights on can also help illuminate the path of success for a small rural business.

Our Rural Microentrepeneur Assistance Program (RMAP) provides loans and grants to Microenterprise Development Organizations (MDOs), which in turn provide microloans to microenterprises (ultimate recipients) through a revolving loan fund. In addition to these two program, our portfolio offers even more options tailored for rural small business. You can learn more by visiting our website:

I have had the opportunity to see this first hand while traveling through rural America. I recently visited two two utility companies in Baxter, Minnesota. Each utility, the Crow Wing Cooperative Power and Light and the Consolidated Telephone Company, received $500,000 in REDLG funding to assist a local business, Avantech, with construction of a new manufacturing facility.  Avantech has been recognized as a world leader in the manufacture of cast and aluminum tooling and will create highly skilled jobs in the area.

Consider the impact our programs have had in just the past seven years. Since 2009, Rural Development (#USDARD) has:

  • invested $11 billion to start or expand 103,000 rural businesses
  • helped 1.1 million rural residents buy homes
  • funded nearly 7,000 community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care facilities;
  • financed 180,000 miles of electric transmission and distribution lines;
  • and helped bring high-speed Internet access to nearly 6 million rural residents and businesses.

As we celebrate National Small Business Week, I am reminded every day of the critical role that my agency plays in helping to make rural America a great place to live and work.

Category/Topic: Rural