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President Obama Renews Charge to Help Rural Companies and Communities Compete Globally

Cross-posted from the Department of Commerce blog:

Yesterday, President Obama announced new commitments in the “Made in Rural America” export and investment initiative, which is charged with bringing together federal trade-related resources for rural communities and businesses. This announcement reflects the Administration’s strategy for ensuring workers and businesses of all sizes, from communities large and small, benefit from the nation’s economic resurgence.

The Department of Commerce also released data yesterday that show 26 states set new export records in 2014, and many of those states are in the nation’s heartland.

Made in Native America - Exports Growing the Market

During the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) 71st Annual Marketplace & Convention, I had the privilege to host “Made in Native America: A Workshop on Native Business Exporting”. In this seminar, Tribal leaders and Native business owners came together to discuss the benefits and challenges of moving Native-made/Native-harvested products abroad.

“I believe as we start growing and working together, we’ll never have the poverty that we’ve seen in Indian Country,” says Karlene Hunter, CEO of Native American Natural Foods, during the workshop’s first panel. She continued by remarking, “You need to know your market. You need to know your capacity.”

White House Rural Council Growing Rural Economies, Creating Jobs

Cross posted from the White House Blog:

This week is National Small Business Week. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), along with agencies across the Obama Administration, are hosting events in five cities. These events provide expert advice, mentoring and explore topics ranging from access to capital to exporting. Small businesses across the country can tune into these events via livestream at

America’s small businesses create two out of three net new private sector jobs in our economy. And today more than half of all working Americans either own or work for a small business. Our goal is to ensure that the positive economic benefits of entrepreneurship can reach every corner of the country.

New Investment to Kick Off National Small Business Week

In rural America, the local community drives the rural economy. Main Street businesses are critical to economic growth. Money spent and invested locally rolls through a community and generates even more economic benefits.

That’s why rural small businesses are critical to strong rural communities. And it’s why USDA is pleased to join with the Small Business Administration to recognize and honor America’s small businesses this week, during National Small Business Week.

USDA Offices in Delaware/Maryland and New York Host Meetings to Boost Lending to Rural Businesses

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.

Creative Financing Roundtable Hosted by Vermont USDA Staff

Last week, Molly Lambert, State Director of the Vermont Rural Development State Office, (RD) joined me in hosting the state’s first “Intermediary Relending Program and Creative Financing Roundtable.”  Meeting participants, including leaders from Vermont’s economic and community development centers, met at the Vermont Economic Development Authority office located in Montpelier, Vermont.

The purpose of the meeting was to explore ways to promote the distribution of more than $5 million in funds to Vermont’s rural small business entrepreneurs using the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Intermediary Relending Program (IRP).  These enthusiastic participants, who have keen insight into the state’s industries and barriers to capital, learned that working collaboratively will benefit all Vermont communities.

During the opening part of the meeting, staff from the Vermont USDA State Office gave the state’s Intermediary Relending providers updates on the administration of IRP loans.  The session then moved to a discussion of trends, observations, and economic opportunities for the small businesses in their respective areas.

From Futile to Fertile: Midwest Farmers, Federal Partners Address Drought

The 2012 drought dried up more than just crops. For many U.S. farmers, it also dried up savings, material resources, and perhaps saddest of all, hope.

“The drought of course impacted our crop yields tremendously,” said veteran Ohio dairy farmer Leon Weaver. “Corn yields were about 50 percent of normal. Dairymen are exiting this business in droves.”

But for Weaver and nearly one hundred other Ohio, Michigan and Indiana farmers who gathered recently in rural Henry County, Ohio, hope was a commodity worth trading as they shared, in roundtable fashion, their ideas on how to access resources and rise from the dust.

New York USDA Staff Steps Forward to Help Hurricane Sandy Victims

When the state first heard the news about a storm possibly hitting the East Coast, many people in New York did not know what to expect. Would it make landfall before New York? Would it take a turn and dissipate over the Atlantic Ocean? Forecasters had predicted that the storm would deliver “severe winds, rain and even the potential of life-threatening flooding throughout the Eastern seaboard.” As New York City began widespread evacuations and shuttered the City’s transit system, the state collectively held its breath.

USDA Urges Holiday Shoppers to Sample Local Businesses

Saturday, November 24, 2012 is Small Business Saturday.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development, in partnership with the White House and the Small Business Administration, proudly supports this important effort by asking everyone to shop at small businesses whenever possible.  Presently, there are 28 million small businesses throughout the United States, representing 44 percent of U.S. private sector payroll.  These small businesses also create 2 out of every 3 new American jobs.

In New Jersey, Neighbors Helping Neighbors Recover from Hurricane Sandy

When Hurricane Sandy was forecast to hit the east coast a little more than two weeks ago, no one would have imagined all the devastation and destruction the storm would leave behind.  In days leading up to the mandatory evacuation of our coastal areas, many residents wondered if this would be a false alarm similar to last years’ evacuation, when Hurricane Irene came barreling through many of our towns.  Although Irene caused considerable power outages, flooding and wind damage up and down the Garden State, nothing can compare to Sandy.