The Daily Iowegian
---- — DES MOINES — During the past year a relatively small mission area within the U.S. Department of Agriculture has assisted thousands of rural Iowans by helping bring nearly half a billion dollars to rural Iowa to support community and economic development projects throughout the state.
USDA Rural Development invested $498 million into rural Iowa in 2013 to develop homeownership opportunities, as well as wide variety of job-creation and community-improvement projects and activities.
For instance, USDA Rural Development funds were used to build a road in Warren County to support an expanding small business, helped the city of Corwith plan for a new fire station, developed an indoor farmers’ market facility in Ottumwa and will assist with the upcoming remodeling and expansion at Floyd Valley Hospital in Le Mars.
“Our focus is on the viability of rural communities which are so vital to our state and nation,” said Bill Menner, USDA Rural Development state director in Iowa. “These are the places that help support American agriculture and foster an ethic that impacts our workforce, our military and our economy. We are working with communities to create jobs, expand opportunity, encourage innovation and build a strong foundation for the future.”
In 2013, USDA Rural Development funding, through 40 direct loan, guaranteed loan and grant programs, helped 2,600 rural Iowa families purchase homes, created or retained more than 1,000 jobs, and assisted 60 communities with improvements to facilities, services and infrastructure.
This fall a groundbreaking ceremony was held at the future home of C&L Companies’ new warehouse and distribution and testing facility in rural Warren County. USDA Rural Development provided a $1 million rural economic development loan to assist with the expansion project.
Additionally, a $280,000 rural economic development grant helped make upgrades to the roadway near the warehouse and distribution facility. C&L Companies is a manufacturer of after-market motorcycle component parts. The project is estimated to create 14 new jobs.
Access Energy Cooperative used nearly $800,000 in USDA rural economic development grants and loans in 2013 to create a revolving loan fund that the Henry County Health Center used to purchase health information technology equipment for the surgical and outpatient departments.
Many recipients of USDA Rural Development’s 2013 rural business enterprise grants are supporting local foods efforts. Cass County used an $11,554 technical assistance grant to help develop sustainable and economically successful local foods systems that support farm-based businesses and entrepreneurs in the county.
Ottumwa Progress Inc. received a $62,676 grant to assist with construction costs, as well as the purchase of equipment for an educational and commercial kitchen area in an indoor farmers’ market facility helping small and emerging businesses. Winneshiek County Agricultural Extension District received a $48,000 grant to help purchase a refrigerated delivery truck and provide technical assistance to northeast Iowa food producers and processors through a food hub delivery and marketing service.
In addition to generating jobs, USDA Rural Development investments are also creating ongoing economic opportunities in rural America that will pay benefits for years to come.
The city of Bloomfield received $2 million in loan and grant funds to help establish an emergency connection to Rathbun Regional Water Association’s newly completed water treatment plant in case the city would need to access additional water in the future. The plant was supported by $20 million in USDA Rural Development loan funds and can treat six million gallons of water per day.
“We are very happy to be a partner with all the communities we serve as they work hard to make investments that will impact many future generations,” Menner added. “We also enjoy working with communities on much smaller projects that provide an outstanding opportunity for residents to work together and experience success. Many times, this success leads to bigger community-improvement initiatives.”
This year USDA Rural Development awarded grants of $50,000 or less to 29 communities including the city of Blockton to help purchase a fire truck, the city of Floris to assist with upgrades at their fire station and to Wayne County Hospital to purchase a 3-D ultrasound machine and viewing station.
Since 2009, USDA Rural Development has invested nearly $3 billion in rural Iowa on essential public facilities, small and emerging businesses, water and sewer systems and housing opportunities for Iowa families.
USDA Rural Development has 11 offices across the state to serve the 1.7 million Iowans living in rural communities and areas. Office locations include a State Office in Des Moines, along with Area Offices in Albia, Atlantic, Humboldt, Indianola, Iowa Falls, Le Mars, Mount Pleasant, Storm Lake, Tipton and Waverly.