National Small Business Week began yesterday with a proclamation from President Obama recognizing the small businesses across the Nation which, especially in our rural and small-town communities, making vital contributions to communities and the American economy.
Individually, the impact of a small business may seem minor in comparison with conglomerates. The Small Business Administration (SBA), however, estimates that more than half of our American workforce either owns or is employed by a small business, and two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year is created by–you guessed it–a small business. It’s clear this portion of economy is significant, but in rural towns and areas where each job and transaction has an effect on the community, small business is essential. In rural America, the entrepreneurs, mom-and-pop shops, agri-businesses, small-scale manufacturers, and other enterprises are the local economy.
Like for-profits everywhere, rural small businesses are innovating to create 21st Century jobs and capturing new markets at home and abroad. Unlike their urban counterparts, however, their rural location often limits access to financial services, business capital, technical assistance, energy solutions, and resources for workforce development.
In response, USDA Rural Development provides financing, technical and energy assistance options specifically designed to meet the unique needs of the diverse businesses operating in rural areas. Between 2009 and 2013, our suite of business programs helped more than 74,000 businesses create or save more than 375,000 jobs. In fact, USDA Rural Development has provided more than 18,300 guaranteed loans, direct loans and grants to support business development, develop skilled workers, invest in renewable energy, and spur job creation and economic development.
Today, USDA continues to deliver on our long-term commitment to fostering opportunity for rural business–and the workers and communities relying on the jobs and revenues they generate. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced a variety of opportunities for small businesses to partner with USDA:
- Last week, for example, USDA announced historic funding of $78 million through a variety of programs to support local and regional food systems, including food hubs, farmers markets, aggregation and processing facilities, distribution services, and other local food enterprises.
- In addition, USDA Rural Development is currently taking applications for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). With REAP, rural small businesses and agricultural producers may apply for financial assistance to make energy efficiency improvements or install renewable energy systems.
- Through the “Made in Rural America” export and investment initiative, USDA has created a new investment fund, the Rural Business Investment Company, to facilitate private equity investments and propel the growth of cutting-edge agriculture-related small businesses across rural America.
These are just a few of USDA’s recent opportunities. Our entire suite of USDA Rural Development programs offer even more options tailored for rural small business. Learn more on our Rural Development website, and stay tuned to the USDA Blog for stories about successful small businesses USDA has assisted across rural America.