In an ongoing effort to help rural businesses create sustainable, quality jobs, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on Dec. 20 that $6 million in funding will be provided to support rural economic development efforts in seven states in the Midwestern and Southern US. Under the USDA's Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program, zero-interest loans are first made to rural electric co-ops, which then re-lend the money to initiatives focused on preserving jobs in local communities. The current round of funding is expected to save or create at least 350 jobs.
For example, Tri-County Electric Membership Cooperative in Tennessee will receive a loan of $996,000; these funds will be used to help construct a health clinic in Tomkinsville, Kentucky, which is expected to create over 60 jobs. In Minnesota, a $1 million loan is to be granted to Lake County Power to fund the expansion of a boat lift and dock manufacturing business that is projected to retain over 70 jobs, while creating 30 new positions.
Examples of projects that are eligible for REDLG funding from the USDA include:
- Capitalization of revolving loan funds
- Technical assistance in conjunction with projects funded under a zero interest REDLoan
- Business Incubators
- Community Development Assistance to non-profits and public bodies (particularly job creation or enhancement)
- Facilities and equipment for education and training for rural residents to facilitate economic development
- Facilities and equipment for medical care to rural residents
- Telecommunications/computer networks for distance learning or long distance medical care