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Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan

South Dakota: A Strong Force in Economic Development

To me, the phrase 'economic development' is more than a buzzword – and that was reinforced during an all-too-brief trip to western South Dakota. It's easy to get caught up in the policymaking and program implementation in Washington, D.C., and I find great value in getting to the field so I can see exactly how these programs are helping our local stakeholders and partners, small business lenders, and entrepreneurs make investments in the local economy.

I started out the day in Sturgis, where we met up with Legends Suspensions owner Jesse Jurrens. With the backing of two Business & Industry Guaranteed Loans, Jesse has shaped and changed the sport and lifestyle of motorcyclists globally. With his lean and efficient business model, he's become a global force in motorcycle suspensions. We also visited Landsport, another Sturgis-based business that specializes in manufacturing and marketing aluminum loading ramps, drop deck ramps, service ramps, and other custom applications. Landsport used a Business & Industry guaranteed loan to expand its production and work staff. After meeting with the staff at both facilities, I walked away knowing these operations have a long-term vision for success and growth.  USDA and our lending partners helped give them the freedom to execute that vision.

Rural Battery Manufacturer Gets Boost from USDA Business Program

Small business owners face countless challenges when it comes to finding success in the global marketplace – and for those in rural areas, the challenges are often more pronounced.

For more than 30 years, Superior Battery has been manufacturing a wide range of batteries from its plant in Russell Springs, Ky. The business is locally owned and operated, and was started by Randy Hart – an Air Force veteran and tool-and-die enthusiast – his wife and four nephews.

Rural Manufacturer "Legend" Rides into the Sturgis Motorcycle Hall of Fame with USDA Backing

The 74th Annual Sturgis Bike Rally roared through South Dakota the first part of August with a week of activities and events. One noteworthy event was Jesse Jurrens, owner of Legend Suspensions, being inducted into the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame at the 14th Annual Hall of Fame Induction Breakfast held at the Lodge in Deadwood, SD.

Rural Development Area Director Tim Potts was on-site on my behalf to represent the agency and congratulate Jesse on this major milestone.  The mission of the Hall of Fame is to collect, preserve, and interpret the history of motorcycling, honor those who have made a positive and significant impact on the sport and lifestyle, and pay tribute to the heritage of the Sturgis Rally.  Jesse definitely has shaped and changed the sport and lifestyle of motorcyclists globally and is inspiration for future generations.

In Colorado, Partnerships Bloom in Support of Regional Food Systems

This summer, USDA is highlighting partnerships to invest in the future of rural America. Our partners work with us year after year to leverage resources and grow economic opportunities. They are the key to ensuring our rural communities thrive. Follow more of our stories on Twitter at @USDA or using the hashtag #RuralPartners.

Strong local and regional food systems are anchored in durable relationships. The USDA is proud to work closely with organizations and individuals and other entities across the country who are dedicated to building the networks and infrastructure local food systems need.  One partnership in the making is with the Sustainable Agriculture and Food System Funders (SAFSF).  SAFSF is a network of over 85 grantmakers supporting sustainable agriculture and food systems. Established in 1991, SAFSF has been a philanthropic leader in local and regional food system development.

Recently, SAFSF held their 12th annual meeting in Denver, Colorado. The meeting allowed USDA Know Your Farmer Know Your Food team members to interact with foundation leaders as part of our ongoing effort to explore ways USDA programs can leverage non-government funds more strategically.  The agenda included site visits to local food projects where public-private partnerships can make a difference.

Agriculture is Smart for Smart Growth

“Smart Growth” is a term we hear more and more often.  It is the idea that as communities plan for the future, they consider the highest and best use of every resource – land, infrastructure, organizations and people.    From housing to transportation to energy to food; community developers and planners are asking how Smart Growth principles can be applied to ensure a sustainable and dynamic future for their communities and their residents.

Deputy Under Secretary Encourages Michigan USDA Home Loan Borrowers to Explore a Streamlined Refinancing Pilot Program

Last week, USDA Rural Development in Michigan got an early start on Homeownership Month by promoting a pilot refinancing program, announced in February by Secretary Tom Vilsack, to help residents with current USDA home loans reduce their payments.

Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Doug O’Brien and USDA Rural Development State Director for Michigan James Turner made the announcement at the Portage office of AmeriFirst Home Mortgage, a leading partner with USDA’s Guaranteed Home Loan program.

Rural Development Funds Effort to Give Local Louisiana Growers and Customers a New Market

Recently, I was afforded the opportunity to travel with Jared Hicks, USDA Rural Development’s Business and Cooperative Specialist, to attend the grand opening of a new 19,500 square-foot grocery store in Winnsboro, Louisiana.  It was an exciting and happy day for the community residents on the south side of Winnsboro and surrounding towns. Local residents, Chamber of Commerce representatives, and community leaders all were out to celebrate the impressive day-long opening of Ford Food Center. Associated Wholesale Grocers (AWG) a retailer-owned cooperative and one of the largest wholesale grocery distributors in the United States had staff on-hand to provide assistance for this occasion.

Increasing Access to Locally Grown and Healthy Food

Cross posted from the White House blog:

Three years ago, I was asked to participate in the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity, out of which grew the First Lady’s Let's Move! initiative. In May 2010, we submitted a report to the President that made a series of recommendations for addressing the challenges of obesity and hunger, both of which stem from a lack of access to good, healthy food.  The report identified local food systems as a strategy to combat food access problems, and specifically called upon the USDA "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" Initiative to provide technical and financial assistance to help communities grow and process their own food, and create jobs at the same time.

I’m pleased to report that we’ve made a lot of progress since 2009 – and we have two new tools to help communities learn about what we’ve done and tap into USDA resources to develop their own solutions. The new Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass is a document packed with photos, video and case studies of communities building strong local food systems. Farmers’ markets, mobile produce vendors, farm to school initiatives, and food hubs are just a few of many examples highlighted by the Compass. The Healthy Food Access section (PDF, 444 KB) shows how communities are using USDA resources to promote health and the local economy.

Rural Business Booms in York, PA

Alan Shortall recently hosted Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan and a White House Business Council roundtable at his company’s headquarters in York, Penn. Alan’s company, Unilife, was the recipient of a USDA Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan. His story is proof that public and business sectors can work together to bring about change in rural America.

I was recently honored to host a roundtable discussion between the White House Business Council and local business leaders from York, PA. This meeting and similar roundtable discussions now taking place across the country are an excellent initiative by the Obama Administration as it provides a direct line of communication between employers from across the U.S and senior members of the Federal Government.

USDA Rural Development Loan Guarantee Improves Access to Local Foods in St. Peter, Minn.

The St. Peter Food Co-op has been a valuable asset to the south central region of Minnesota for over 31 years. I realized just how valuable as I sat down to eat lunch at the co-op recently.

General manager Margo O’Brien had just given us a tour and hosted an event to publicly recognize the USDA’s role in financing the new facility. After signing the closing documents on a loan guarantee through nearby Wells Federal Bank and Rural Development’s Business & Industry loan guarantee program, it was time for lunch.