WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has announced the award of $4.6 million in loan and grant funds to promote business development in eight states.

An estimated 627 jobs will be created or saved. The funds are being provided through USDA Rural Development's Intermediary Relending and Rural Business Enterprise Grant programs.

"Job creation is a hallmark of the Bush Administration, and these funds will continue building economic strength in rural America," said Johanns. "These grants will promote the creation of new businesses, assist existing businesses, save jobs and create new ones."

The Intermediary Relending program provides 1 percent loans to non-profit development organizations for the establishment of revolving loan programs for loans to small businesses. Applications are selected for funding through a nationwide competition.

Rural Business Enterprise grants facilitate the development of small and emerging private businesses. Public bodies, private non-profit corporations and federally recognized Indian tribal groups in rural areas are eligible to apply.

States receiving funding include: Calif., Mont., N.C., N.D, Ore., S.D., Vt. and Wis. Non-profit organizations in South Dakota will receive three IRP loans totaling $1.9 million to fund business creation and expansion efforts. An estimated 380 jobs will be created or saved. The Washburn County Industrial Development Agency in northern Wisconsin will receive a $750,000 loan to assist business and economic development, creating an estimated 76 new jobs.

The Northeastern Vermont Development Association will receive a $50,000 grant to conduct a feasibility study for an agriculturally based business incubator building in the Hardwick Industrial Park. The new facility could attract up to four new businesses and create 14 new jobs. A complete listing of the organizations receiving loan and grant funds is available online.

USDA Rural Development's mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life in rural communities. Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA's web site at www.rurdev.usda.gov.

SOURCE: USDA news release.