KINGFISHER, Okla. -- Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today announced the recipients of loans and grants to spur economic development and create or save jobs in rural areas. USDA is providing these awards through three Rural Development program: The Intermediary Relending Program, Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program, and the Rural Business Enterprise Grant Program for Rural Economic Area Partnerships. A telephone cooperative in Kingfisher was among the recipients announced today. Funding is authorized by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (Farm Bill).

"The funding we are announcing today will help rural businesses and entrepreneurs obtain the financing they need to thrive, grow and create jobs," Merrigan said. "These grants and loans represent the Obama Administration's ongoing commitment to ensure that rural communities attract capital investments that lead to business development and job creation."

To help create new economic opportunities, USDA has selected small businesses from across the country to receive funds under the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program, as well as the Rural Business Enterprise Grant Program for Rural Economic Area Partnerships. Several of these businesses will benefit from local partnerships between USDA Rural Development and a local utility or cooperative. In addition, loans are being made through USDA Rural Development's Intermediary Relending Program. USDA provides the funds to community development or regional planning groups who then re-lend them to local businesses. Loans are used to start new businesses, expand existing ones, and create or retain jobs. In all, USDA announced more than $21.3 million today to provide economic development and business creation opportunities for rural communities across the nation.

For example, the Pioneer Telephone Cooperative, Inc., in Kingfisher, Okla., has been selected to receive a $91,320 Rural Economic Development Grant to establish a revolving loan fund and provide a no-interest loan to Kingfisher Regional Hospital. The hospital will purchase equipment and furniture for the Rehabilitation Services and Specialty Clinic that is under construction at the new hospital complex. This project is expected to create five jobs.

During her visit to Kingfisher, Deputy Secretary Merrigan visited the Pioneer Cooperative, which is also a recipient of funding through the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP). As a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Pioneer was awarded $1.81 million BIP loan and a $1.78 million BIP grant earlier this year. The cooperative will use the funding to design, engineer, and construct a fixed wireless broadband network that will extend from Kansas to the Texas border along the Western quarter of the state.

Meanwhile, in Vermont, the Northeast Kingdom Travel & Tourism Association has been selected to receive a $92,500 grant to promote regional agritourism targeting 15 farm businesses. The grant will increase the number of farms participating in the Vermont Fresh Network and allow the Association to continue to market the Northeast Kingdom as a geotourism destination.

In Livingston County, Mo., the Farmers Electric Cooperative has been selected to receive a $740,000 loan to expand a cold storage and public food warehouse facility in Chillicothe.

The South Carolina Rural Rehabilitation Corporation has been selected to receive a $750,000 loan to finance real estate acquisitions for farmers. This assistance will ultimately aid new businesses in the development and sale of products to local retailers, farmers markets, and processing facilities in South Carolina. The economic activity generated by USDA's loan assistance is expected to help seven businesses and create an estimated 30 new jobs.

In Connecticut, the Northeast Economic Alliance, Inc. (North Alliance) has been selected to receive a $500,000 loan to help firms that have had difficulty obtaining financing. North Alliance also partners with other nonprofit economic development entities, town economic development funds, and the state Department of Economic and Community Development to foster collaborative relationships with other state agencies, local banks and economic development entities. The economic activity generated by these loans is expected to retain and create about 60 jobs.

The funds announced today are part of USDA's annual budget and are not from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Funding of each loan or grant is contingent upon the recipient meeting the conditions of the agreement. A complete listing of the loan and grant awards follows:

Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program Recipients

SOURCE: USDA.