Tricounty News

Funding is announced for rural business

USDA officials announce economic development funding to strengthen businesses and create jobs in rural communities of Minnesota

USDA Rural Development State Director Colleen Landkamer today announced the selection of three organizations for grants to help rural cooperatives and small businesses expand, create jobs and strengthen their capacity to serve rural citizens and communities.

“These grants help cooperatives support projects and initiatives that create jobs and improve rural economic conditions,” Landkamer said. “USDA funding helps provide the expertise and capacity-building resources that cooperatives rely on to succeed in carrying out their missions.”

Funding is provided through USDA Rural Development’s Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) program. The grants are being awarded to non-profit groups to create and operate centers that help establish, expand or operate rural businesses, especially cooperatives and mutually-owned businesses. These competitively awarded grants may be used to conduct feasibility studies, create and implement business plans, and help businesses develop new markets for their products and services. Since fiscal year 2009, the RCDG program has awarded grants totaling over $1.2 million in Minnesota.

The Friday, Dec. 13, announcement includes several recipients who are developing new market opportunities for rural farmers and ranchers by capitalizing on consumer interest in locally produced food. For example, the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC) is being selected for a $200,000 grant to assist food hubs – facilities that aggregate local food and market it to large-volume buyers in the region. LEDC will assist the Agua Gorda farmer cooperative with increasing their marketing opportunities to include urban business clients and expand the reach of their locally-grown specialty vegetables. A recent Michigan State University study found that the average food hub creates nearly 20 jobs and generates close to $4 million in sales. LEDC has also assisted in the development of nonprofit organization Willmar Area Multicultural Business Center (WAMBC), which provides economic development services to local Latino entrepreneurs as well as projects across nine counties in the St. Cloud, region.

The Agriculture Utilizaton Research Institute (AURI) is receiving a $200,000 grant to continue its research and assistance of local food processing, storage and delivery cooperatives.  AURI will provide direct technical assistance and applied research services to meet the cooperative development needs of at least six cooperatives representing 4,550 producers in various stages of development in economically distressed areas.  The technical assistance these centers provide will help generate new opportunities for Minnesota farmers and ranchers, create jobs in local food processing and distribution industries, and serve growing consumer demand for locally-produced products.

Finally, The projects supported through Friday’s announcement go far beyond food. For example, Northcountry Cooperative Foundation’s (NCF) Center for Cooperative Innovation is receiving $200,000 to continue its work in creating manufactured housing cooperatives. NCF has helped build the program infrastructure that has converted more than 500 households to cooperative ownership through technical assistance and training. These housing cooperatives have helped create playgrounds, safe and secure mailboxes, new community signs, and bus shelters. They hope to add new storm shelters, community centers and water mains to that list of investments over the next few years in order to continue the revitalization of local rural communities and expand local employment opportunities.

Friday’s announcement is another reminder of the importance of USDA programs for rural America. A comprehensive new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would further expand the rural economy, and that’s just one reason why Congress must get a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill done as soon as possible.

   USDA Rural Development has invested more than $4.1 billion throughout Minnesota since 2009. In addition to investing in rural businesses and cooperatives, the agency has programs to improve rural housing, infrastructure, high-speed Internet, healthcare facilities and other economic development projects. To learn more about Rural Development, visit www.
rurdev.usda.gov/mn
.