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USDA Rural Development Awards Island Institute $87K Grant

Leigh Hallett
Release Date

Funds Will be Used for Revolving Loan Fund for Rural Coastal Businesses

South Thomaston, Oct. 17, 2023 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Maine State Director Rhiannon Hampson today announced that USDA is awarding a Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) of $86,988 to Island Institute of Rockland, Maine. Director Hampson announced the award with Island Institute President Kim Hamilton at an event at the South Thomaston Public Library-Gilford Butler Center. A group of area business leaders joined a round-table discussion following the announcement.

“USDA Rural Development recognizes that there are unique challenges facing coastal and island-based small businesses,” said Director Hampson. “Expanding access to patient capital and technical assistance in a way that is community driven – that is the highest and best use of awards like the Rural Business Development Grant. Because the Institute is providing the loans via a revolving fund, the benefit is sustainable. These dollars will continue to circulate in Maine’s working waterfront and coastal communities creating a multiplier effect. We are honored to be a part of the funding network that is helping Maine’s small businesses to grow and thrive.”

Founded in 1983, Island Institute is celebrating its 40th year of working to sustain Maine’s island and coastal communities. In 2012 the nonprofit organization established the Tom Glenn Community Impact Fund to support small coastal businesses, and will use the RBDG investment to expand the Fund’s loan portfolio. The resulting loans will help increase borrowers’ business capacity and preserve and create jobs.

The Tuesday event featured a roundtable discussion with area entrepreneurs, including Krista Tripp, Owner, Aphrodite Oyster Company; Gabe Pendleton,

Staff from Island Institute gather with USDA RD State Director Rhiannon Hampson and Aphrodite Oysters owner Krista Tripp.

Operations Manager, Pendleton Yacht Yard; Steve Zimmerman, COO, Mook Sea Farm; and Krista Rosen, Co-Founder, Cold Current Kelp. All are past participants in programs offered by the Institute and discussed the role of capital in establishing a successful small business in rural communities.  

Island Institute has utilized USDA Rural Development grant dollars in the past to support economic development and resiliency in rural towns along the Maine coast. Most recently, the Institute secured a Rural Community Development Initiative Grant (RCDI) in 2022 to place technical advisors in five low-income communities. The towns of Eastport, Milbridge, Millinocket, St. George, and Vinalhaven each welcomed an advisor from the Institute’s fellowship program to support community programs and economic development.

For more information about Maine’s RBDG program, please contact Ivana Hernandez Clukey, Loan Specialist at 207-990-9127 or ivana.hernandezclukey@usda.gov. The next anticipated RBDG application deadline is February 28, 2024.



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