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Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces Funding To Increase Economic Opportunity in Rural, Native American and Alaska Native Communities


Alaska to Receive Almost $450,000 to Promote Business and Job Development

WASHINGTON, May 26, 2010 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA has selected 27 projects including three in Alaska to receive grants to help fund rural businesses, start new businesses, save and create jobs, and train workers in Native American and Alaska Native communities.

“USDA is working to ensure that members of Tribes have the tools they need to create a livelihood, expand economic opportunity and improve their quality of life,” Vilsack said. “The grants announced today represent USDA’s ongoing commitment to strengthen Tribes and support sustainable business opportunities.”

In Southeast Alaska, a grant of almost $100,000 was awarded to the Alaska Rural Community Assistance Corporation, which is working with the Organized Village of Kake, the Alaska Shellfish Growers Association and the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery to establish a geoduck nursery in Southeast Alaska.  The nursery will improve the availability and survival rates of geoduck spat and will create new opportunities for mariculture development and job creation.

The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the University of Alaska-Anchorage (UAA) will receive a $200,000 grant to open a new business development center in Bethel.  The SBDC operates an effective network of business development centers around the state, but this marks the first time the SBDC will have full-time staff available in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region.  The center will provide technical assistance to small business owners and to entrepreneurs.

The Center for Economic Development at UAA will receive $150,000 to initiate the AKSourceLink Rural Resource Network.  The network builds on an already successful project and will assist in connecting small business owners and entrepreneurs with business development resources.  The new network will also provide a distance learning component which includes a business development webinar series. 

The $3.4 million in grants announced nationwide today is administered through USDA Rural Development’s Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) program. This program provides grants for rural projects that finance the development of small and emerging rural businesses, help fund distance learning networks, and help fund employment-related adult education programs. More information about this program can be found at www.rurdev.usda.gov/BCP_rbeg.html.

These funds are part of USDA’s annual budget and are not from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the conditions of the grant agreement.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages more than 40 housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of 6,100 employees located in the nation’s capital and 500 state and local offices. 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. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of more than $134 billion in loans and loan guarantees.
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