WASHINGTON, July 29, 2015 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced loans and grants for 92 projects worth $18.1 million to help support the start-up or expansion of rural small businesses. These funds are part of more than 20,000 grants and loans to more than 85,000 rural businesses USDA's Rural Business-Cooperative Service has awarded since the start of the Obama administration.
"I am proud of the work USDA has done to help small businesses grow in rural America because they are the engine that creates jobs," Vilsack said. "These funds will allow small and emerging businesses and the organizations that support them to get the financing they need to strengthen their operations, create jobs and expand economic opportunities. Thanks to the 2014 Farm Bill, we can continue this work in a more streamlined and efficient way to benefit small businesses and the American taxpayer."
USDA provides grants or zero-interest loans through the REDLG program to utilities that in turn fund projects to create and retain employment in rural areas. Vilsack announced $11.7 million in REDLG loans and grants for 18 recipients.
One of the organizations receiving funds under the REDLG program is the South Mississippi Electric Power Association, which has been selected for a $2 million loan. It will lend part of that to the city of Greenwood, which will buy and renovate a building for the Milwaukee Tools company. This project is expected to create more than 100 jobs in Lenore County. Lenore is one of many counties across the nation USDA has targeted for special assistance through the StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity. USDA launched StrikeForce in 2010 to increase investments in rural communities through intensive outreach and stronger partnerships with community leaders, businesses, foundations and other groups that are working to combat poverty.
In the Intermediary Relending Program (IRP), Vilsack announced $2.5 million for three IRP recipients. Colorado's First Southwest Bank is receiving a $1 million loan for business and community development in 11 counties in the southwest part of the state. The IRP program provides 1 percent loans to non-profit groups, cooperatives, federally recognized tribes and public agencies.
USDA is awarding 71 Rural Business Development Grants totaling $4 million. Congress established the RBDG program in the 2014 Farm Bill by combining the Rural Business Enterprise Grant program and the Rural Business Opportunity Grant program. One of the RBDG recipients, the Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Morristown, will receive a $110,020 grant to buy state-of-the-art equipment to train students in advanced manufacturing. The Northern Community Investment Corporation in Vermont is receiving two grants totaling $454,892 to establish a revolving fund and to provide technical assistance and professional consulting to help small businesses.
Past examples of how these awards have helped grow the economy in rural America include:
- Sisters Kim Brigham Campbell and Terrie Brigham, in Oregon's Hood River County, used part of an IRP loan awarded to the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District to open a retail store. They sell salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and other fish harvested from sites that have been passed down within this Native American family for generations. The store opened in May 2014.
- USDA's REDLG program is fueling the growth of a firm in Eastern Kentucky. USDA awarded a $740,000 REDLG loan to the Jackson Energy Cooperative in FY 2011. The Cooperative, in turn, loaned a portion of those funds to Senture, which constructed a building where it provides call-center and support services for private companies and government agencies. Senture is a family-owned business headquartered in London.
- In FY 2014, USDA Rural Development awarded a $64,990 Rural Business Enterprise Grant to Sustainable Northwest, a non-profit in Portland, Ore., to find commercial uses and markets for Western Juniper. It is a widespread and often problematic species in central and eastern parts of the state. Sustainable Northwest is using USDA's grant to help create timber and forestry jobs in rural Oregon and contribute to ecosystem restoration by identifying additional uses for Western Juniper wood products.
The funding for today's awardees totals $18.1 million and is contingent upon the recipients meeting the terms of the loan and grant agreements.
President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).