As part of the Obama administration’s work to turn the economy around and create jobs, one of the most important roles we have at USDA is to act as a catalyst for business development in rural America. Small businesses are the economic engine that drives our economy. And every year, USDA supports thousands of small businesses. Just this year we have assisted a sawmill in Northeast Wisconsin that was provided loan funds to buy new equipment and create 23 new jobs, and a Pennsylvania potato products maker that received loan funds to build a new plant employing 40 workers.
USDA plays a major role in ensuring good access to credit in rural America. So far this fiscal year, using funds provided by Congress through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) and separate funding appropriated to the Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program, we have provided $2 billion dollars in investments to stimulate business development across the nation. These business loan guarantees are provided to lending institutions as they make loans to rural business owners.
Earlier today I joined USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager, Business Programs Administrator Judith Canales, Ginger Lew, Senior Counselor, National Economic Council, and 35 lenders from across the country at a day-long meeting at USDA to discuss ways to provide even more support to American businesses in their efforts to create good jobs. These lenders, and many more like them, worked with us this year to make it possible for USDA to commit all of the Business and Industry Recovery Act funding provided to us by Congress to stimulate economic growth. We could not have done it without them.
And our accomplishments are substantial. Recovery Act funding alone has helped us work with 200 banks, guaranteed 500 loans and created or saved an estimated 27,000 jobs. The best part is that we still have about $1 billion left in “standard” guarantee funds and we are actively seeking partners for additional loans.
In addition to conventional business loans, we are also seeking partners to promote the expansion of lending for renewable fuels production as we transition to a clean energy economy. While we value the lenders we have worked with this year and in the past, we are looking for additional lenders to partner with us.
Today’s meeting was highly successful, but in order to fully restore the economy, we need to take the next steps together. To do that, contact our business programs staff here in Washington or contact any of the 47 USDA Rural Development business programs offices across the country. I’m asking you to join with me and President Obama to continue the progress we’ve made in turning the economy around and putting Americans back to work.
Tom Vilsack is the Agriculture Secretary