Last week, Molly Lambert, State Director of the Vermont Rural Development State Office, (RD) joined me in hosting the state’s first “Intermediary Relending Program and Creative Financing Roundtable.” Meeting participants, including leaders from Vermont’s economic and community development centers, met at the Vermont Economic Development Authority office located in Montpelier, Vermont.
The purpose of the meeting was to explore ways to promote the distribution of more than $5 million in funds to Vermont’s rural small business entrepreneurs using the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Intermediary Relending Program (IRP). These enthusiastic participants, who have keen insight into the state’s industries and barriers to capital, learned that working collaboratively will benefit all Vermont communities.
During the opening part of the meeting, staff from the Vermont USDA State Office gave the state’s Intermediary Relending providers updates on the administration of IRP loans. The session then moved to a discussion of trends, observations, and economic opportunities for the small businesses in their respective areas.
One intermediary lender commented, “IRP is an important program, and an excellent resource of low cost capital that can be re-lent to the small businesses in our communities. In an economic environment where lenders tend to offer a variable interest rate, because of the low cost of capital, we can offer a fixed interest rate to our businesses. Having a fixed interest rate is a very comforting thought to many right now.”
Later that morning, more than 20 individuals, representing public and private lenders, partners, and association representatives (agriculture, energy, small grocery, value added, and women business assistance advisors) joined the group. State director Lambert provided an overview of USDA Rural Development as a partner in economic development. Guest speaker Kevin Morehouse, of the Small Business Administration (SBA), emphasized how lenders are asking him, “How do I do a deal like you did when you were at RD?” These 20 groups shared IRP, SBA, RD guarantees, and other financial tools and best practices. They also shared creative ways to advance capital to small rural businesses. The examples discussed put a “real life” picture together for the participants.
As a result, participants learned about technical assistance programs that may help small business entrepreneurs receive a lower interest rate for loans, and energy cost-savings measures that will help small businesses lower their overhead and boost their profits.
The enthusiasm at this meeting was contagious! I hope this key group of 30 plus individuals will continue to work together and maximize their resources for best and highest impact on the rural economy in Vermont.
If you would like more information, on the Intermediary Relending Program and other USDA RD loan and grant programs, please visit the Rural Development Vermont-New Hampshire website.