Portland, OR, Aug 26, 2011 -- A $96,500 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development will help Umpqua Indian Foods determine the feasibility of a job-creating, food processing expansion project in rural Douglas County.
Since 1998, the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians has been operating Umpqua Indian Foods (UIF) as a tribally owned, USDA certified meat processing business. UIF currently employs 12 at their Canyonville, Oregon facility, where they specialize in a signature line of beef jerky and dried meat snack products.
Building on this success, UIF is now interested in exploring new opportunities to increase its market share, including the viability of expanding their operations into a full service multi-species meat processing facility that could supply local and tribal food service outlets as well as other potential meat markets in the region. Such an expansion could create much needed new jobs in a county beset with a 13.4 percent unemployment rate.
“The Cow Creek have always made a concerted and successful effort at stimulating job growth in Douglas County to elevate the economic wellbeing—of both tribal and non-tribal members,” stated Michael Rondeau, CEO of Cow Creek. “This USDA award is a tremendous win—a huge milestone for the Umpqua Indian Foods Expansion Project taking it to the next level where the Tribe will put in the work and commitment that is entailed.
“If proven feasible, some of the project’s significant economic benefits would include: the one-time business activity generated as a result of facility construction; annually recurring operational expenditures impacts including wages and salaries for an estimated 18 new jobs; providing services for regional family-owned farmers and ranchers helping them to maintain economic viability; providing locally raised and processed healthy, premium quality meat to the public and, implementing U.S.D.A.’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, whose goal is to revitalize rural economies through the promotion of local food systems,” Rondeau said.
The funding is part of a recent USDA Rural Development announcement of more than $3 million in Rural Business Enterprise Grants (RBEGs) to support small business and job creation opportunities in Native American communities. Of the 32 grants announced last week by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, three support Oregon projects. The other two Oregon awardees are listed below:
• Chemeketa Community College will receive $50,120 for their MERIT Microenterprise Program to provide technical assistance and training to assist the start-up and growth of Native American businesses.
• Klamath Tribes will receive $99,441 to move forward development of a Tribal forest restoration business.
"USDA is working to ensure that members of Tribes have the tools they need to expand economic opportunities and improve their quality of life," Vilsack said. "These grants represent USDA's ongoing commitment to strengthen Tribes and support sustainable rural business opportunities that will create jobs."
USDA Rural Development's Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) program provides grants for rural projects that finance the development of small and emerging rural businesses, help fund distance learning networks, and help fund employment-related adult education programs. More information about this program can be found at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/ORrbeg.html.
“The recent RBEG awards are just a small part of our work to enhance economies and create jobs in rural areas across the state,” said USDA Rural Development State Director Vicki Walker.
In addition to the recent grant awards, Walker notes that so far this fiscal year, USDA Rural Development has guaranteed more than $45 million in commercial loans through the Business and Industry (B&I) loan guarantee program to stimulate rural business. “In addition,” she said, “The agency is also supporting a variety of rural housing and infrastructure projects that are creating jobs across the state.”