Columbus, OH, Apr 12, 2012 -- Remember the old saying, “Many hands make light work?” It’s in this spirit the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Small Business Administration are partnering in an over-the-ramparts effort to leverage $350 million in investment capital across rural America.
“I am very pleased to see the spirit of collaboration alive and growing in this partnership,” USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Doug O’Brien said. “In today’s climate, there is too often a belief that federal agencies can’t or won’t work together. We’re proving that to be incorrect.”
O’Brien today joined SBA Deputy Associate Administrator Harry Haskins and about 30 area lenders, economic development teams, venture capitalists and state and Congressional representatives at Columbus’s historic North Market to determine how best to boost job creation and promote rural small business investment in Ohio.
As part of the President Obama’s Startup America Initiative, the SBA created a $1 billion Impact Investment Fund through its Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program. The Impact Fund will invest in distressed areas as well as in emerging sectors such as clean energy. SBA provides up to a 2:1 match to private capital raised by this fund, partnering with private investors to target “impact” investments.
“Last year, the SBIC invested a total of $2.8 billion on small business initiatives nationwide,” Haskins said. “About $350 million of that investment went directly to rural areas. Roundtables like this help us figure out if that number is on the spot or if, as we suspect, it’s not enough. We’re here to learn what more we can be doing.”
Integral to the President’s job creation initiatives in rural America, the program is designed to support rural small businesses in Ohio during the next five years. O’Brien and Haskins also were joined by Ohio Rural Development State Director Tony Logan and regional representatives from the SBA.
“There was a powerful cross-pollination of ideas here today,” Logan said. “Lenders familiar with Rural Development now have a better understanding of SBA programs and vice versa. Also, the role of angel investors for start-up businesses and mezzanine funds for expansion in financing small-town development was brought into sharper focus. Still, this represents a starting point, not the finish line.”
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 $165 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. More information about USDA Rural Development can be found at www.rurdev.usda.gov
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