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.
In Pennsylvania, The Northwestern Rural Electric Cooperative Association of Cambridge Springs, Crawford County, received a Rural Economic Development Loan. The funds will be used to provide loans to rural utilities program borrowers to provide economic development. For example, this project will enable Erie Tool & Forge to convert a section of the forge shop to induction heating.
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 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.
On September 8, President Obama presented the 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.
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