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USDA Undersecretary Sees Economic Engines at work in Michigan

State Director for Michigan James J. Turner, Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager, homeowner Sherion Jones and Area Specialist Lori Grover.

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager made two visits to Michigan in the last few days and joining him in his travels was Rural Development State Director for Michigan James J. Turner and several of our staff as he crossed the state.

On Thursday, June 21st, he toured the Cranberry Park assisted living facility in Clio, which is near Flint.  Completed in 2011, the 12,000 square-foot, 20-bed facility was constructed thanks to a Rural Business Guaranteed Loan.

Tonsager then visited the home of Sherion Jones, in Flushing (just west of Flint).  Jones purchased the home through the USDA Direct Loan program and also received a Home Improvement Direct Loan for a new air conditioner, which was installed earlier in the week  – and based on the heat wave we are still experiencing, not a moment too soon.

Tonsager also highlighted the role of partner lenders Cason Home Loans and Mortgage 1 in the Guaranteed Loan program.  From Fiscal Year 2011 to the present, Cason Home Loans has produced 574 loans and Mortgage 1 has produced 504 loans. Both lenders are in Michigan’s top five in terms of volume of loans.

Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager (left) and Mike Beck, owner of Uncle John’s Cider Mill, located in St. Johns.

Friday morning, he stopped into the State Office to talk to our employees and answer questions before heading up to Uncle John’s Cider Mill.  Uncle John’s is a local landmark, about 20 minutes north of Lansing off of US 127 and it is the gateway to northern Michigan.  The cider mill received a Value Added Producer Grant in February to increase the sale of locally-produced cider.

Mike Beck, the owner, was hosting a meeting of potential distributors for the cider and it was a great opportunity for the Under Secretary to speak with business owners from across the state. Later, Tonsager returned to the Flint area and attended the Grow It and Make It stakeholder meeting with U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow in Burton.  He returned home for the weekend but was back Sunday evening so that he could address the National Value Added Conference at the Grand Traverse Resort in Acme on Monday morning.

USDA funded construction of the Cranberry Part assisted living facility in Clio, just north of Flint.

Afterwards, he met with the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and then toured the Skilled Manufacturing Inc. facility – conveniently located near the Traverse City airport.  The automotive and aerospace parts manufacturer received two USDA guaranteed loans to restructure its debt and purchase equipment.

It was a pleasure to host the Under Secretary and highlight the many and diverse ways USDA Rural Development is helping Michigan.

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