Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA has selected 10 rural microenterprises to receive grants totaling $300,000 that will support job growth and business development in several rural communities. The funds are being provided under the Department's Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP), which the 2014 Farm Bill reauthorized through 2018.
"Through the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, USDA partners with local organizations who in turn invest in local, small businesses that otherwise are unable to obtain the credit they need to grow and thrive," said Vilsack. "Facilitating long-term economic development in this way empowers rural residents to invest locally, cultivating stronger communities. This program exemplifies how USDA can partner with rural communities to maximize the positive impact of even a small investment of federal dollars"
Under RMAP, USDA provides loans and grants to Microenterprise Development Organizations (MDOs) to help microentrepreneurs, defined as very small businesses with 10 or fewer employees, to access microloans to start or develop businesses. MDOs use the funds to provide training and technical assistance to eligible small businesses or to establish revolving loan funds to provide microloans, typically ranging from $5,000 to $50,000, to rural microentrepreneurs.
For example, investments from the RMAP program have played a key role in sustaining a stable rural economy in Iowa, where nearly 86 percent of businesses qualify as microenterprises. In 2012, USDA awarded $630,000 in RMAP funds to North Iowa Area Community College and to the Iowa Foundation for Microenterprise and Community Development (Iowa MicroLoan), who distributed the capital as loans and grants to small businesses across the state. Iowa's economy is heavily based in food and agriculture, and many of the businesses that received RMAP support contribute to the regional, national, and international reach of the industry.
This year, RMAP grants will fund new projects, including the Our Native American Business Network's initiative to provide training to Native American entrepreneurs from the Muscogee (Creek) and Cherokee Nations in Oklahoma who are interested in launching new rural small businesses. In places across the nation, rural microentrepreneurial investment supports community development, job creation, and economic stability.