ALBERT LEA, Minn., Sep 20, 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.