USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Lillian Salerno listens as Erik Chaffer, environmental health, safety and logistics manager for Three Rivers Energy, recounts the long-hoped for reopening of the ethanol plant he helped mothball in 2008 during the Great Recession. Located in rural Coshocton County, Ohio, the plant employs nearly 40 area residents and purchases corn from local farmers. (USDA photo: Heather Hartley)
Erik Chaffer considers himself an optimist. Still, he found himself feeling pretty low as he watched the Great Recession knock the legs out from under the rural Ohio ethanol plant he helped manage.
“Everything was pretty good until July 2008. It was just a ‘perfect storm’ type of situation,” said Chaffer. “The unknown is the worst part of it. You can’t make plans for the future. It’s a very stressful, unnerving way of life.” Read more »
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. Read more »
Business Program Specialist Deborah Rausch, Ohio Rural Development State Director Tony Logan, Toia Rivera-Strohm and Brad Strohm show off local textiles from the VonStrohm Woolen Mill & Fiber Arts Studio in Pickaway County. The small business was awarded VAPGs in 2010 and 2012. (USDA photo)
By now, we’re all familiar with the uniquely American shopping frenzy known as “Black Friday.” Almost before the Thanksgiving leftovers are even in the fridge, Big Box stores throw open their doors, offering sales geared toward holiday shoppers wrangling for the best deals. Black Friday has become as much of a November tradition as pumpkin pie, but for the past few years, small businesses around the country have been offering an enticing alternative to the long lines and early wake-up calls that come with the craze. USDA’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBCS) is pleased to join the White House, the Small Business Administration and 1,400 American communities in celebrating Small Business Saturday on November 30.
Small Business Saturday is all about buying local and shopping small. Shopping small for both holiday gifts and everyday items not only can save you money, it also offers you access to one-of-a-kind, locally-made products as an alternative to “cookie-cutter” gifts. Small Business Saturday is designed to support the businesses that drive commerce in small communities; businesses that account for 44 percent of the private sector payroll and create two out of every three new jobs in America. Read more »
Veterans returning home from overseas tours-of-duty face many challenges as they readjust to civilian life, and one of the most daunting ones is finding employment. Last year, a new program — the Soldiers to Civilians (S2C) Project — was started in rural west Tennessee to give local veterans the training and skills they need to enter into the field of precision agriculture. Thanks to grant assistance from the Department of Agriculture (USDA), project leaders will now be able to expand the S2C program beyond west Tennessee to help even more veterans living in the rural delta areas of east Arkansas and west Mississippi.
The expansion was funded, in part, through USDA’s Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) program, which promotes development of small and emerging businesses in rural areas. Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Lillian Salerno announced the award during a visit to the Memphis Bioworks Foundation, a bioscience-oriented nonprofit organization that is a partner on the S2C project. Memphis Bioworks is one of more than 130 projects in 30 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico that are receiving RBEG funds. Read more »
While many manufacturing companies provide well-paying jobs and play a vital role in creating vibrant, healthy rural communities, sometimes rural communities may struggle to attract these companies. To help bridge this gap, the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) was created. This Administration-wide effort brings together federal departments and agencies to provide coordinated assistance to communities to become more attractive for manufacturers.
Recently, USDA hosted two IMCP events in Minnesota and California with diverse audiences of about 120 stakeholders representing manufacturing businesses, lenders, economic development organizations, universities and community colleges, small businesses development centers, and local leaders among others. At both meetings, USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Lillian Salerno led panels of federal partners that discussed the initiative and sought input on the needs of local manufacturers. Read more »
Last month, I joined Secretary Vilsack in announcing National Small Business Week on behalf of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Louisiana. In support of rural small businesses, USDA announced several funding opportunities across the country for business owners to increase their capacity to hire new workers and expand their businesses. Small Businesses are the lifeblood of every community, but in a rural town one small business can mean the difference between a thriving main street and empty windows. This is why the work that USDA does on behalf of rural America is so important.
The state office for Rural Development is located in Central Louisiana where I met State Director Clarence Hawkins and his staff before we headed out to visit local businesses. The first stop was Consolidated Energy Holdings in Pollock. A variety of waste sources is produced by the company. Later, I had the opportunity to speak at the Cenla Small Business Appreciation Luncheon at the Central Louisiana Business Incubator in Alexandria. I was so inspired by the business incubator, which the city started as a workforce training facility for those with the desire to grow and expand their businesses. The incubator provides business owners with growth strategies, financing options, resources, and administrative support to name a few. There is an industrial kitchen available to use for food based business opportunities and specialty food producers. This incubator is the epitome of what small communities across rural America should be doing, making investments in their own citizens to foster job growth. Read more »