Albert Lea, MN, Sep 19, 2012 -- USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager visited Albert Lea, Minn., today to highlight USDA investments in the region through Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services and the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency (ALEDA).
“Coming into Albert Lea, we drove by some of the businesses that have accessed loan funds established using USDA investments,” Tonsager said. “I’m proud that USDA was able to team with Freeborn-Mower and ALEDA to expand economic opportunities for these businesses to grow and create jobs. The Obama Administration is committed to ensuring that rural communities attract capital investments that lead to business development and job creation.”
After an event at ALEDA’s headquarters, Tonsager and other officials moved a few blocks down the street and toured Mrs. Gerry’s Kitchen, Inc. Mrs. Gerry’s got its start in an 1,100-square-foot building in Albert Lea in 1973 and has grown into a leading manufacturer of salads and side dishes. Today, Mrs. Gerry’s operates out of an 85,000-square-foot facility and distributes more than 130 products in a 17-state area. Products include salads, entrees, dips desserts and mashed potatoes.
Rural Development recently selected Freeborn-Mower to receive a $1 million loan through its Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) program. Freeborn-Mower will re-lend the funds to Mrs. Gerry’s to help finance an expansion project that added 36,000 square feet to its facility.
Through the REDLG program, USDA makes loans to rural utility providers, who re-lend the funds to area businesses or organizations for economic development projects, business expansions and job creation projects.
Tonsager also highlighted how ALEDA will use a $385,000 USDA loan to establish a revolving loan fund that will assist other local businesses in the community. Through USDA’s Intermediary Relending Program (IRP), loans are provided to intermediaries (ALEDA) that re-lend to local businesses. As each loan is repaid, additional loans can be made.
USDA has a long history of partnership with Freeborn-Mower and ALEDA. Using more than $4 million in USDA funds, Freeborn-Mower has assisted 15 area businesses or organizations since 1998. Examples include the Albert Lea Medical Center, Trails Travel Center and Zumbro River Brand.
ALEDA accessed USDA funding through Freeborn-Mower in 2002 to help finance its current headquarters, which also serves as a business incubator and currently has four tenants. ALEDA also uses its facility to provide valuable technical assistance and training to local businesses.
ALEDA has previously received $75,000 through USDA’s Rural Business Enterprise Grant program. All of those funds are currently loaned out to small companies in the area.
In addition to partnering with local organizations such as Freeborn-Mower and ALEDA on economic development investments, Rural Development invests housing, infrastructure, high-speed Internet and renewable energy. Since 2009, Rural Development has invested more than $3 billion throughout Minnesota.
President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $172 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.