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Agriculture Secretary Announces Funding to Create Jobs and Economic Opportunity in Rural Communities

WASHINGTON, July 18, 2013 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the selection of organizations in 11 states for loans and grants to support job creation efforts and business development, and to strengthen economic growth in rural communities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) remains focused on carrying out its mission, despite a time of significant budget uncertainty. Today's announcement is one part of the Department's efforts to strengthen the rural economy. The announcement was made on the Secretary's behalf by USDA Rural Utilities Service Administrator John Padalino while he was attending the annual National Rural Economic Developers Association meeting in Austin, Texas.

"These investments will give rural businesses and local organizations more access to capital and new markets, allowing them to expand and increase hiring," Vilsack said. "Between 2009 and 2011, USDA used $1.4 billion in government funds to provide nearly $7 billion in loans and grants to help rural businesses grow and innovate. This kind of investment creates and saves jobs in rural communities and builds thriving economies for the long term, all major goals of the Obama Administration and USDA."

The $11.8 million announced today is being provided through USDA's Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program (REDLG). It provides zero-interest loans and grants to local utilities which then, in turn, lend the funds through to local businesses (ultimate recipients) for projects that will create and retain employment in rural areas. The program funds business start-up or expansion, business incubators, education and training facilities and equipment, community development assistance, health care and other community projects that support rural jobs.

For example, in October 2012, the Central Iowa Power Cooperative received a Rural Economic Development loan to help Precision Pulley and Idler, an employee-owned manufacturer in Pella, Iowa, expand its facilities to meet increased demand for the company's products. The Pella operation has almost 200 employees and is the third-largest employer in the area.

Since the beginning of the Obama Administration, the REDLG program has helped create or save an estimated 25,000 rural jobs, provided $200 million in economic development assistance, improved manufacturing capability, expanded health care and educational facilities, and has either expanded or helped establish over 900 rural businesses and community projects.

Today's announcement will support 26 projects in 11 states. The following is a list of rural utilities that will receive USDA funding, which is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan or grant agreement.

Illinois

  • EnerStar Electric Cooperative - $1 million loan. To purchase grain handling equipment for the Coshocton Grain Company. The project will add four jobs and save five positions.

Iowa

  • Access Energy Cooperative - $495,000 loan and $300,000 grant. To create a pass-through loan for the Henry County Health Center to buy equipment for the surgical and medical departments. The fund will create three jobs and help retain 300 positions.
  • Access Energy Cooperative - $300,000 grant. To establish a pass-through loan fund to buy land for the Wayland Industrial Development Corporation's new industrial park.
  • Panora Communications Cooperative - $300,000 grant. To establish a loan fund to help Lakeshore Family Dentistry build a clinic in Panora. The project will create four jobs.
  • Interstate 35 Telephone Company (d.b.a. Interstate Communications) - $280,000 grant. To establish a loan fund to help Warren County upgrade a roadway associated with expansion of an industrial business. The project will create 14 jobs and help retain seven existing ones.
  • Ogden Municipal Utilities - $300,000 grant. To establish a loan fund to help Ogden Legacy, Inc., build a modern medical facility in downtown Ogden. The facility will help Ogden retain its doctor and expand medical services in the community. The project will help retain seven jobs.

Michigan

  • Cherryland Electric Cooperative - $300,000 grant. To establish a loan fund to help the GT Metro Emergency Services Authority buy a custom rescue pumper fire truck. The project will create three jobs.

Minnesota

  • Steele-Waseca Electric Cooperative - $1 million loan. To create a pass-through loan to help finance the expansion of Ellingson Drainage, Inc. The project will create 20 jobs.
  • Arrowhead Electric Cooperative Inc. - $300,000 grant. To establish a loan fund to help finance construction of a 7,000-square-foot commercial building for the Cook County Whole Foods Co-op in Grand Marais. The project will create 10 jobs and help retain 20 existing ones.

Nebraska

  • City of Gering – $300,000 grant. To capitalize a loan fund to help build two additions and a new building. The project will create one full-time job, one part-time job, and help save one existing position.
  • City of Tecumseh Board of Public Works – $300,000 grant. To set up a loan fund to help Johnson County Hospital upgrade its generator and modernize its electronic records management and pharmacy medication management systems. The project will create one job.
  • City of Gothenburg – $300,000 grant. To create a loan fund to help Gothenburg Memorial Hospital upgrade servers and computer networks for its electronic medical records system. The project will create three jobs and save four existing positions.

North Carolina

  • Piedmont Electric Membership Cooperative – $300,000 grant. Funds will be used to establish a loan fund to help Bethel Hill Charter School build an addition that will house eight new classrooms. This project will create three jobs.
  • EnergyUnited Electric Membership Cooperative – $1 million loan and $300,000 grant. The funds will create a pass-through loan be used to provide a more efficient heating and cooling system and upgrade the lighting in West Iredell High School.
  • Four County Electric Membership Corporation – $300,000 grant. Funds will be used to establish a loan fund to help Pender County Emergency Medical Services purchase new vehicles and equipment. This project will create four jobs.
  • French Broad Electric Membership Corporation – $300,000 grant. Funds will be used to capitalize a loan fund to help a local community college build an advanced manufacturing school.
  • Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation – $1 million loan. Funds will be used to expand a pharmaceutical manufacturing company. The project will create approximately 40 jobs and save 50.

North Dakota

  • McLean Electric Cooperative Inc. – $300,000 grant. Funds will be used to set up a loan fund to help Garrison Memorial Hospital improve its emergency room. This project will create three jobs.
  • United Telephone Mutual Aid Corporation – $172,318 grant. Funds will be used to establish a loan fund to help the city of Walhalla renovate a clinic and dental building. This project will create four jobs.
  • Verendrye Electric Cooperative, Inc. – $160,000 grant. Funds will be used to establish a loan fund to help the city of Velva purchase a new fire and rescue truck.

Ohio

  • Midwest Electric Cooperative, Inc. – $300,000 grant. Funds will be used to expand an existing revolving loan fund to serve businesses in Mercer, Allen, Auglaize, Van Wert, Shelby, Darke and Putnam counties. The initial loan from this fund will be used to help Mercer County install water and sewer lines for a planned industrial park. This project will create 93 jobs.

South Carolina

  • Pee Dee Electric Cooperative, Inc. – $1 million loan. Funds will be used to provide working capital to Pee Dee Regional Airport Authority. This assistance is expected to save 40 jobs in Florence County.

South Dakota

  • Codington Clark Electric Cooperative, Inc. – $300,000 grant. Funds will be used to establish a loan fund to build a 41,000-square-foot building to facilitate business expansion. The project will create 75 jobs.
  • Dakota Energy Cooperative, Inc. – $300,000 grant. Funds will be used to establish a loan fund for an addition to the Madison Elementary School in Huron. The project is expected to create eight jobs and save 45.
  • Kingsbury Electric Cooperative, Inc. – $300,000 grant. A loan fund will be established to help finance construction of a building for the Horizon Health Care, Inc. medical and dental clinic in DeSmet. This project will create four jobs and save 11.

Tennessee

  • Board of Public Utilities of the Town of Erwin – $375,000 loan. Funds will be used to help the town purchase a vacant industrial building and 16 acres. The building and site will be used to attract manufacturing business and jobs to Unicoi County.

According to Administrator Padalino today's announcement is also yet another reminder of the importance of USDA programs for rural America. A comprehensive new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would further expand the rural economy - and he said that's just one reason why Congress must get a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill done as soon as possible.

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 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, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as the Department implements sequestration - the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act.

USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than $828 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions. These reductions have put USDA in a better position to carry out its mission, while implementing sequester budget reductions in a fair manner that causes as little disruption as possible.

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