ST. LOUIS- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Tuesday that projects in 17 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico will receive loan and grant assistance to create jobs and boost economic development in rural areas. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) remains focused on carrying out its mission, despite a time of significant budget uncertainty. Tuesday's announcement is one part of the Department's efforts to strengthen the rural economy. Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Lillian Salerno made the announcement on Vilsack's behalf while attending the National Veterans Small Business Conference in St. Louis.
"The Obama Administration is committed to building strong rural economies, and helping veterans find jobs that will support their families," Salerno said. "The funding we are announcing today reflects the Administration's commitment to provide economic opportunity for residents and businesses in rural communities, including those here in Missouri."
Tuesday's announcement involves funding provided through three USDA economic development programs: the Intermediary Relending Program, the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program, and the Rural Business Opportunity Grant Program.
Intermediary Relending Program funds are awarded to community-based development or regional planning groups that then re-lend the money at a low interest rate to local businesses. The loans must be used to create or retain jobs by starting or expanding businesses. Since President Obama took office, this program has created or saved approximately 40,000 jobs.
For example, the Justine Petersen Housing and Reinvestment Corporation, a community development and investment firm in St. Louis, was selected to receive a $750,000 loan to establish a revolving, low-interest loan fund for small businesses in rural areas throughout Missouri. The projects assisted through the loan fund are expected to create more than 130 jobs.
USDA's Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) program provides zero-interest loans and grants to local utilities which then, in turn, lend the funds to local businesses (ultimate recipients) for projects that will create and retain employment in rural areas. The program funds business start-up or expansion, business incubators, education and training facilities and equipment, community development assistance, health care, and other community projects that support rural jobs. Since the start of the Obama Administration, the REDLG program has helped create or save an estimated 25,000 rural jobs, provided $200 million in economic development assistance, improved manufacturing capability, expanded health care and educational facilities, and has either expanded or helped establish more than 900 rural businesses and community projects.
Midwest Energy, Inc., in Hays, Kan., is receiving a $167,000 economic development grant to build an addition for the fire station in Grainfield. The addition will include four bays, a training room, an office, restrooms with showers, and a mechanical area. Expanding the facility will ensure that Grainfield's firefighters have adequate space and equipment to respond to emergencies within its more than 115-square-mile service area.
Rural Business Opportunity Grants (RBOG) are provided to promote sustainable economic development in rural communities with exceptional needs. Since the start of the Obama Administration, $13 million in these grants have been provided to help more than 430 business and community projects in economically stressed rural communities find new opportunities for growth. The projects have created more than 2,830 jobs. Rural Development will announce additional RBOG recipients later this year.
For example, in Bismarck, N.D., the Center for Technology and Business will use a $25,000 grant to help business owners in Bowman and Dickinson master the use of web applications, social media and other online information technology for their business operations.
Tuesday's recipients will receive nearly $13 million in loans and grants. The funding is contingent upon the recipients meeting the terms of the loan or grant agreement. In addition to Puerto Rico and the states of Missouri, Kansas, and North Dakota, other states receiving funding include: Calif., Conn., Minn., N.C., N.Y., Ohio, Ky., S.C., S.D., Va., Vt., W.Va., Wash. and Wis.
Administrator Salerno said Tuesday's announcement is another reminder of the importance of USDA programs for rural America. She said a comprehensive new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would further expand the rural economy, and that's just one reason why Congress must get a comprehensive Bill done as soon as possible.
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's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as the Department implements sequestration – the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act.
USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than $828 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions. These reductions have put USDA in a better position to carry out its mission, while implementing sequester budget reductions in a fair manner that causes as little disruption as possible.