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small business week

USDA Helps Small Business Grow Into Something Big

Corwin Heatwole describes himself as quite the stubborn - though innovative - teenager. Leaving home at 17 years of age, this hardworking young man from Harrisonburg, Va. started several successful businesses in his early 20s before he discovered that there was a growing demand for organic chicken in the U.S. In 2013 he bought 300 chickens with not one buyer yet in sight. Now, with the help of USDA, he has more demand than he can handle.

Since that day, Corwin has grown the business from 35 employees to nearly 350 in just 25 months with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In October of 2014, Corwin received $200,000 in a working capital Value Added Producers Grant from USDA Rural Development and in January of this year, he also received a $600,000 Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan (B&I). He used the guaranteed loan to upgrade a very old plant with state-of-the-art packaging and processing machines. Without the packaging machines in particular, he noted, he would have never been able to fulfill his growing orders from Costco and Whole Foods. And through this growing business, he has been able to increase his farmers’ end-of-the-year net income by 75 percent.

Building Ladders of Opportunity through Rural Small Business Development

In his Small Business Week Proclamation earlier this week, President Obama said, “Small businesses represent an idea at the heart of our Nation's promise -- that with ingenuity and hard work, anyone can build a better life.”

Having started my own manufacturing company in rural Texas many years ago, I believe small business folks are American heroes. What it takes to get a business going and the immense responsibility of employing others and developing markets is very hard work especially in rural areas.  The work of an entrepreneur is also rewarding and those relationships with employees, customers and the community are lifelong.  For rural entrepreneurs, their companies are part of the fabric of the community.

One of the main obstacles getting a business off the ground is locating the capital to invest in communities.  Seeking a business loan or receiving an equity investment is such a critical path for startups and to keep entrepreneurship vibrant in rural America because we know the type of jobs created by small business are the ladders of opportunity.

In Honor of Small Business Week, Save Mother Earth by Saving Resources

Business owners and managers around the world like to save money.  Electricity, natural gas, and water are three utilities that can drain a bank account fast.  N-K Properties, Inc., a car wash business, based in Yankton, South Dakota wanted to improve the bottom line.  The car wash business is a very utility hungry business, so energy efficient technology would benefit the business with increased comfort for employees and customers to significant dollar savings in energy, operation, and maintenance costs.

The design concept that N-K Properties was operating under for their energy efficiency improvements was – Save Mother Earth by saving resources.   Working collaboratively with USDA Rural Development, N-K Properties, Inc. was able to integrate energy efficiencies into their operation with the installation of a wind turbine to generate electricity.  The signage consists of Light Emitting Diode “LED” to save energy.  In addition, geothermal heating and cooling equipment were installed for the building.