Washington, D.C., Oct 03, 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, Southeast Montana Development Corporation in Colstrip received an RBOG to help establish a multi-county regional Impact Mitigation and Planning Position to assure a positive and orderly development of the massive Otter Creek Coal Project near Ashland, MT.
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, Glacier Electric Cooperative in Cut Bank, MT received funds to provide a zero-interest loan to Northern Rockies Medical Center in Cut Bank to purchase radiology equipment and electronic medical records software.
For a complete list of applicants selected for funding, which is contingent upon recipients meeting the terms of their agreements, please click here.
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.