WASHINGTON — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is awarding more than $4 million in grants to 23 organizations to support rural economic development projects. Secretary Vilsack also announced that USDA soon will seek applications for the next round of program funding. The awards and the request for applications are being provided through the Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) program. RCDI helps community-based development organizations, federally recognized Indian tribes and other groups promote economic development in low-income, rural communities.

“The latest Census data show that last year, rural America’s population grew at the fastest rate since 2010,” Vilsack said. “USDA stands ready to help rural communities create jobs and continue to be a place where people want to raise their families. We have seen time and again that our community investments are most successful when we partner with folks already embedded in the local fabric. These grants will help bring jobs to our rural small towns, with USDA providing funding and technical assistance to help launch business and development projects specifically tailored to the needs of each local and regional area.”

RCDI grants are not provided directly to businesses or individuals. Instead, awards are provided to public or non-profit intermediaries that are locally-based and skilled in business development and job creation. Recipients must obtain matching funds, which doubles the impact of the grants. USDA will publish application information in an upcoming Federal Register notice.

Since 2009, USDA has awarded $39 million to support 206 rural economic development projects financed through the RCDI program. The projects are examples of USDA’s support for locally-based development strategies.

One of the organizations selected for funding in today’s announcement is The Initiative Foundation in Minnesota. It has been selected for a $172,372 grant to provide training, technical assistance and financial support to 20 non-profit organizations serving low-income rural communities in central Minnesota.

The Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation is receiving a $250,000 grant to help low-income communities in Eastern Kentucky develop businesses and create jobs. The grant will support the Leslie County Fiscal Courts, Perry County Fiscal Courts and the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. Leslie and Perry Counties are persistent poverty counties that receive assistance under USDA’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative and the President’s Promise Zoneinitiative.

USDA launched StrikeForce in 2010 to address persistent poverty across America. USDA staff work with state, local and community officials to increase awareness of USDA programs and help build program participation through intensive community outreach and technical assistance. President Obama announced the launch of the Promise Zone initiative in his 2013 State of the Union address to target federal and private resources to high-poverty urban, rural and tribal communities.

Funding for recipients announced today is contingent upon the grantee meeting the terms of the grant agreement.

In 2011, the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development used a $200,000 RCDI grant to help the Growth Alliance launch a regional community development initiative. The project focused on capitalizing on unique assets such as historic downtowns, natural beauty, outdoor recreation, arts and culture, and history. The Alliance is a consortium of Amelia, Brunswick, Buckingham, Charlotte, Greenville, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, and Nottaway counties and the city of Emporia.

Since 2009, USDA Rural Development (#USDARD) has invested $11 billion to start or expand 103,000 rural businesses; helped 1.1 million rural residents buy homes; funded nearly 7,000 community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care facilities; financed 185,000 miles of electric transmission and distribution lines; and helped bring high-speed Internet access to nearly 6 million rural residents and businesses. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/results.


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