USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager has met with Arizona small business leaders to gather input on how the Obama Administration can work with local businesses and community leaders to improve rural economic conditions and create jobs. The meeting was hosted by the Arizona Small Business Association at its headquarters in Phoenix.
The event was one in a series of roundtable meetings being held across the nation with senior Obama Admin-istration officials on behalf of the White House Business Council.
“The White House Business Council is working to build a robust economic strategy for rural America while seeking to ensure that continued federal investments in rural communities create maximum benefit for Americans,” says Tonsager.
“That includes creating jobs by modernizing critical infrastructure, providing broadband to rural communities, expanding educational opportunities and promoting the production of renewable energy.”
The roundtable discussions offer government leaders the unique opportunity to hear directly from business leaders around the country about their ideas on how to grow the economy. They also are intended to educate participants about USDA programs and other federal resources that help assist rural businesses, residents and communities.
The Arizona Round Table attracted a diverse group of small businesses and business support groups from across the state – from small solar companies to Native American development groups.
Joining the small businesses were business bankers, rural chambers of commerce, ethnic chambers of commerce and other small business advocacy groups. Donna Davis, CEO of the Arizona Small Business Association, welcomed the group.
“Our programs have invested millions into rural Arizona businesses in the past few years,” says Arizona State Director for USDA Rural Development, Alan Stephens.
“In rural areas where capital is often difficult for small businesses to access, our Business and Industry Guarantee Program has given rural businesses a much needed resource and rural banks and business lenders an incentive to continue to lend in smaller markets.”
Funding Aided By Grants
Stephens notes that Arizona has received two dozen Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP) grants to Arizona businesses in the past two years. One of those grants went to a business in the small town of Elfrida, Ariz. A local well service owner/rancher found himself struggling to cover his escalating utility costs. His business was at a point where he couldn’t afford to grow any more.
With the help of REAP funds, he was able to install a solar photovoltaic (PV) system. USDA funds covered a quarter of the cost of the PV system. The rancher covered the rest of the cost. He says the system cut his utility costs by half and that he didn’t think he could have continued his business without the PV system and the help of USDA.
“Those are the kind of stories we are hearing across rural America,” says Under Secretary Tonsager. “These sometimes small boosts for rural businesses result in companies being able to become more efficient, saving businesses and jobs.”
Government Support Helps
Since taking office, President Obama’s Administration has taken historic steps to improve the lives of rural Americans, put people back to work and build thriving economies in rural communities. From proposing the American Jobs Act to establishing the first-ever White House Rural Council – chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack – the President wants the federal government to be the best possible partner for rural businesses and entrepreneurs creating job opportunities and for people who want to live, work and raise their families in rural communities.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of more than $155 billion in loans and loan guarantees.
These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.
USDA contributed information for this article. For more details, go to www.usda.gov.