Vilsack Announces Investments to Support Economic Development and Job Creation in Rural America
WASHINGTON, Oct. 3, 2011 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced funding awards that will support rural communities, help create jobs and build regional economies in 34 states. Vilsack made the announcement during the Rural Wealth Creation and Livelihoods Conference, sponsored by the USDA Economic Research Service and the Ford Foundation.
"The funds I am announcing today will help local business leaders, communities, and disadvantaged agricultural producers take more of a collaborative and regional approach toward jobs creation, business development and economic growth," said Vilsack.
Projects funded as part of USDA's regional initiative will focus on strategic planning activities to improve economic conditions in rural areas, particularly in underserved communities. The initiative will help communities to connect and cluster their economies geographically based on their self-identified strengths, so they are able to increase productivity and build more robust, sustainable economies.
The Secretary announced investments through the Rural Business Opportunity Grants (RBOG) program which supports regional planning activities to improve economic conditions in rural areas; the Small and Socially-Disadvantaged Producer Grant program, and the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program, which support job creation efforts, business development and strengthens economic growth in rural communities.
For example, the Economic Development Coalition of Northeast Arkansas was selected to receive grant funds that will be used to develop a strategic regional economic development plan for a five-county area. In Oklahoma, the Indian Country Agriculture Resource Development Corporation was selected to receive a grant to provide business training to two dozen Native American agricultural entrepreneurs who are working to supply meat and vegetable products to southwestern buyers. The funding will be used for training that includes general business planning and feasibility assessment, risk assessment, marketing techniques and financial planning.
The Louisiana Association of Cooperatives, located in Gretna, has been selected to receive a grant under the Small Socially-Disadvantaged Producer Grant program to be used to provide technical assistance to small producers in 41 rural parishes throughout the state, including in areas that were affected by Hurricane Gustav.
Under the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program, USDA provides grants to local utilities which use the funding to establish revolving loan funds. Loans are made for projects that will create or retain jobs in rural areas. For example, in Paris, Tenn., the Paris Board of Public Utilities has been selected to receive a $740,000 loan that will be used to assist the city of Paris, Henry County Medical Center and Bethel University with the construction of a medical imaging center, and a pedestrian foot bridge that will link the center with the main hospital. The project is expected to create 75 jobs and help 30 small local businesses. For a complete list of applicants selected for funding, which is contingent upon recipients meeting the terms of their agreements, please click here.
Today's announcement is part of a series of rural infrastructure investments expected by Secretary Vilsack during the next two weeks. This effort supports the goal of the American Jobs Act, which makes critical infrastructure improvements to put people back to work immediately.
The Obama Administration is making historic investments to build rural America's economy by ensuring access to innovative technologies, promoting production of renewable energy, and investing in community infrastructure and job creation.
On September 8, President Obama presented the American Jobs Act [ http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/09/08/fact-sheet-american-jobs-act ] in an address to Congress. The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: put more people back to work and put more money in the pockets of working Americans. The American Jobs Act is specific. It will put people back to work right now, and it will not add to the deficit. Through a combination of direct spending, such as infrastructure investments, and tax relief, such as an extension of the payroll tax cuts, it will lead to new American jobs.
Since taking office, President Obama's Administration has taken significant steps to improve the lives of rural Americans and has provided broad support for rural communities. The Obama Administration has set goals of modernizing infrastructure by providing broadband access to 10 million Americans, expanding educational opportunities for students in rural areas, and providing affordable health care. In the long term, these unparalleled rural investments will help ensure that America's rural communities are repopulating, self-sustaining and thriving economically.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of more than $155 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.