PINE RIDGE, S.D. – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently awarded nearly $20 million through 385 grants to help support the start-up or expansion of rural small businesses.
“These grants will strengthen the economic fabric of our rural small towns and communities by providing capital to small and emerging businesses,” Vilsack said during a visit to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
USDA is awarding the grants through the Rural Business Development Grant program. Recipients may use the funds to provide technical assistance, training and job-creation activities.
The Value Added Agriculture Development Center, based in Pierre, S.D., is receiving a $49,500 grant to teach local businesses in Oglala Lakota County, which is on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, how to commercially process and successfully market buffalo meat.
In April 2015, the Obama Administration designated the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation one of eight new Promise Zones. Promise Zones are high-poverty communities where the federal government partners with local leaders to increase economic activity, improve educational opportunities, leverage private investment, reduce violent crime, enhance public health and address other community-identified priorities.
While Secretary Vilsack was in South Dakota, he highlighted USDA’s work to expand economic opportunities for Native Americans and rural residents throughout the state. For example, he announced that the Oglala Sioux Tribe is receiving a $1.85 million grant to construct a storage building and cell for a solid waste landfill.
Other RBDG recipients include Boyne City, Mich., which been selected to receive a $30,000 grant to provide equipment for an incubator kitchen for local foods. The Town of Princess Anne, Md., is receiving a $21,400 grant to buy furnishings and equipment for the historic Washington Hotel.
Funding of each award announced today is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the grant agreement.
USDA’s Rural Business Development Grant Program is one of several that support rural economic development. Since the start of the Obama administration, USDA’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service has helped 85,000 rural businesses.
The City of Luverne, Minn., population 4,800, is an example of a small town USDA has helped. Luverne used a $99,000 USDA grant in FY 2013 to establish a revolving loan fund to provide affordable financing for downtown businesses. City leaders wanted to help downtown merchants upgrade their shops and eateries so they could attract more visitors and economic activity. Like many cities across the country, Luverne had lost shoppers to the region’s larger towns and big box stores. So far, 13 businesses have been helped as a result of USDA’s grant.