Agriculture Under Secretary Lisa Mensah today announced five awards to expand access to credit for rural businesses, particularly small businesses in poor and underserved areas.
"Helping rural businesses get access to investment capital is one of the most effective ways to help rural economies grow," Mensah said during a visit here today. "These loans will help businesses create jobs, expand their operations, invest in materials and equipment, and promote their success and growth.
USDA Rural Development is providing a total of $2.55 million in loans to five non-profit groups through the Intermediary Relending Program (IRP). Under the IRP program, USDA provides loans to local organizations so they can create revolving loan funds for businesses.
Mississippi's North Central Planning and Development District (NCPDD) has been selected to receive a $600,000 IRP loan. NCPDD is one of 10 planning and development districts in Mississippi. The districts were created by local governments to reduce poverty and address economic development and infrastructure issues on a multi-jurisdictional basis. NCPDD and all other IRP recipients are encouraged to work with other state and regional organizations that can provide additional resources.
The other four IRP awardees are:
Iowa, Newton Development Corporation, $200,000
New Hampshire, Coastal Economic Development Corporation, $500,000
Missouri, Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority, $500,000
South Dakota, Four Bands Community Fund, $750,000
Mensah announced the awards during a meeting today with NCPDD Executive Director Steve Russell, Mississippi Rural Development State Director Trina George and other NCPDD officials. Later in the day, she will participate in a roundtable in Greenwood, Miss., hosted by the Delta Regional Authority and USDA Rural Development to discuss business, infrastructure and other community needs.
Before she arrived in Mississippi, Mensah visited several rural communities in Alabama earlier in the week. Noting that this is her first trip since being confirmed as Under Secretary for Rural Development, Mensah said, "I am excited to engage in the work of USDA Rural Development because we are uniquely positioned to provide investments in rural areas that have not unlocked their economic potential and fully shared in the recovery seen in other parts of the country. These investments work. They will spur job creation and generate a stronger middle-class economy."
NCPDD provides planning, economic and community development, job training and social services in a rural, primarily agricultural area in North Central Mississippi. Its service region spans more than 150 miles from the Tennessee border to the middle of the state.
The area has a large low-income population. Many counties in the region have poverty levels above 20 percent and have been targeted for development aid through USDA's Strike Force for Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative. Unemployment rates in the region are significantly above the November 2014 state average of 7.3 percent.
NCPDD has been a valuable partner with USDA Rural Development for many years. Today's award is its first through the Intermediary Relending Program. In 2010, the organization received a $2.2 million USDA Community Facilities loan/grant combination to help finance its new building. The new, larger facility enables NCPDD to provide more development training and other services to businesses and groups in the region.
In FY 2014, USDA Rural Development invested $460 million in rural Mississippi businesses and communities. More than 50% of Mississippians live in rural 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.