MARYSVILLE, Ohio -- Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today announced $1.4 million in financial assistance to expand business and job opportunities in the state through USDA Rural Development's Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program.

The package is the result of federal, state, and legislative teamwork that will help to improve operations at two businesses and create employment opportunities for more than 25 Ohio families.

"USDA is committed to working with our partners to create a more vibrant rural America," said Johanns during a visit here today. "These guaranteed loans are one of many USDA tools to help strengthen rural economies by facilitating business growth and job creation and retention. We invested more than $40 million in Ohio during the last fiscal year and it's nice to know that we are making a real difference in the lives of rural families."

The two businesses receiving loans are Northwind Safety Corporation and Halliday Technologies, both in Union County, Ohio. This funding will be used to construct new 12,000 square foot manufacturing facilities that will consolidate and improve daily operations. Northwind manufacturers and distributes safety and first aid equipment. Halliday produces a highly accurate friction detection device designed to improve the efficiency of winter snow and ice removal from Ohio's roads. Each company receives approximately $700,000 through USDA Rural Development.

This financing package required close coordination and collaboration between the lender, Commercial National Bank, and the Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation (Farmer Mac). This business arrangement between Farmer Mac and lending institutions expands the institution's lending capability while increasing financing options for businesses in rural areas.

The $40 million in rural development funding provided to Ohio in fiscal year 2005 targeted assistance to businesses in need. Loans ranged from $50,000 to as much as $10 million.

USDA Rural Development's mission is to deliver programs in a way that will support increasing economic opportunity and improve the quality of life of rural residents. Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA's Web site.

SOURCE: USDA news release.