During a news conference at Burlington’s Intervale Community Farm Friday, United States Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden announced 13 organizations across Vermont will share more than $2.3 million in USDA grants and loans aimed at creating jobs in rural Vermont.
"This funding will help small businesses, farmers and forestry enterprises purchase essential equipment, gain access to affordable capital and seek expert advice on how to grow and create jobs in rural areas," said Harden. "The grants and loans we are announcing here in Vermont are about more than one farm, one person or one organization. They are about creating an ecosystem that cultivates and nurtures a wide variety of producers and businesses by expanding knowledge and expanding markets."
Intervale Community Farm Cooperative Manager Andy Jones said these types of grants have helped his farm connect with thousands of consumers through direct sales. The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board will use a $129,998 Rural Business Enterprise Grant to expand the Farm & Forest Viability Program that helped Jones improve his business plan and purchase equipment needed to grow. VHCB will add service providers throughout Caledonia, Essex and Orleans Counties, and extend the reach of the program beyond farmers to include foresters, loggers and forest-products businesses.
During the news conference, Harden announced 16 grants and loans to 13 different organizations in Vermont:
· Burke Area Chamber of Commerce: $69,000 grant to increase awareness of the Burke Area as a recreational destination.
· Center for Agricultural Economy (Hardwick): $71,921 grant to conduct an update of the regional food system plan focusing on business opportunities.
· Green Mountain Farm-to-school Inc. (Newport): $102,010 grant to expand the viability of agricultural-related businesses by increasing marketing and distribution opportunities to schools and institutions.
· Northern Community Investment Corporations (NCIC) (St. Johnsbury): $1,000,000 Intermediary Relending Program Loan to make loans to small businesses. $100,000 grant to help businesses transition from fossil fuels to biomass heating. $100,000 grant to create a business plan and establish priorities for broadband in the Northeast Kingdom. $250,000 grant to provide technical assistance to small businesses.
· Northern Forest Center Inc. (Concord,NH): $100,000 grant to develop and align tourism offerings in the Northeast Kingdom by providing social media, marketing and communications training.
· Rutland Regional Planning Commission: $45,000 grant to create a training toolkit focused on best practices, business how-to, legal and financial info for agritourism entrepreneurs.
· Saint Johnsbury Works Inc.: $76,160 grant to target market-needed businesses, provide support services for the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, upgrade the downtown organization website, create an economic development dashboard, and strengthen organizational management.
· Sterling College (Craftsbury Commons): $25,499 grant to hire an internship development coordinator to help small businesses understand the tax and insurance implications of paid interns.
· Vermont Agency of Agriculture: $97,433 grant to study using gas produced by manure digesters to create on-farm renewable natural gas (RNG) to power on-and-off-farm vehicles and machinery.
· Vermont Council on Rural Development: $100,000 grant to conduct four community visits across the Northeast Kingdom to help bring communities together and set community and economic development priorities.
· Vermont Housing and Conservation Board: $129,998 grant to provide in-depth business planning services to farm, food and forest-based businesses.
· Vermont State Colleges: $32,501 grant to fund an eCommerce business advisor to provide technical assistance and manage, teach, and develop broadband businesss workshops.
· West River Community Project (Townshend): $50,000 grant to purchase commercial equipment for a small community kitchen in the West Townshend Country Store.
Nine of the organizations receiving awards were selected because their applications targeted Vermont’s Rural Economic Area Partnership Zone, a designation that recognizes the unique social and economic challenges in the rural communities of Caledonia, Essex and Orleans Counties. Vermont’s REAP Zone is one of only five in the country, and the designation increases the chances that a grant or loan application from the region is funded.
All of the grants announced Friday were USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grants (RBEGs) and Rural Business Opportunity Grants (RBOGs), which provide grant funding to governmental and non-profit organizations that is used to provide small businesses with the tools to grow jobs in rural America.
The one loan announced Friday was made through USDA’s Intermediary Relending Program (IRP), which provides loans to non-profit lenders for the establishment of revolving loan funds to assist with financing businesses and economic development activity in disadvantaged and remote communities.
President Obama's historic investments in rural America have made our rural communities stronger. Under his 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, through its RD 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 $201 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 areas. For more information on Rural Development visit the Vermont/New Hampshire Rural Development website (www.rurdev.usda.gov/nh-vtHome.html) or contact USDA RD at (802) 828-6000.