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Building Ladders of Opportunity through Rural Small Business Development

Zena Forest Products' owner and Value Added Producer Grant recipient, Ben Deumling, explains the uses and values of different sizes of sustainably harvested Oregon white oak to USDA Rural Development Administrator for Rural Business Service Lillian Salerno at the company site near Salem, OR.

Zena Forest Products' owner and Value Added Producer Grant recipient, Ben Deumling, explains the uses and values of different sizes of sustainably harvested Oregon white oak to USDA Rural Development Administrator for Rural Business Service Lillian Salerno at the company site near Salem, OR.

In his Small Business Week Proclamation earlier this week, President Obama said, “Small businesses represent an idea at the heart of our Nation’s promise — that with ingenuity and hard work, anyone can build a better life.”

Having started my own manufacturing company in rural Texas many years ago, I believe small business folks are American heroes. What it takes to get a business going and the immense responsibility of employing others and developing markets is very hard work especially in rural areas.  The work of an entrepreneur is also rewarding and those relationships with employees, customers and the community are lifelong.  For rural entrepreneurs, their companies are part of the fabric of the community.

One of the main obstacles getting a business off the ground is locating the capital to invest in communities.  Seeking a business loan or receiving an equity investment is such a critical path for startups and to keep entrepreneurship vibrant in rural America because we know the type of jobs created by small business are the ladders of opportunity.

USDA Rural Development delivers a number of programs in partnership with the private sector to help rural small businesses and their employees get started on that upward journey.  Our programs not only encourage business lending, but also provide technical assistance, ensure workforce development, and finance energy innovations. In recent years, we have delivered unprecedented support for the development of small businesses.

From 2009 through 2013, USDA Rural Development:

  • Encouraged lenders to finance the development and expansion of 2,805 rural businesses by backing more than $7.5 billion in commercial loans;
  • Provided more than $121 million to capitalize loan funds for small and emerging businesses;
  • Supported 2,736 rural business assistance efforts; and
  • Backed 11,649 renewable energy and efficiency projects with rural small businesses, farmers and ranchers across the country.

In federal fiscal year 2013, alone, our suite of programs designed to meet the specific needs of rural businesses successfully delivered approximately $1.196 billion in funding to rural America that we estimate helped 17,000 businesses create or save over 44,000 jobs.

Here at USDA Rural Development, we join the President during Small Business Week–and year-round–in our shared commitment to helping rural enterprises thrive.

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