USDA highlights $33 million in rural business investments

By Holly Jessen | March 21, 2014

A recently released USDA report tells the story of more than $33 million in investments to support rural businesses, infrastructure and housing in 2013. The report highlighted a $5 million loan guarantee to Laurel Biocomposites LLC, a Nebraska company that produces distillers grains derived resins, an ingredient in producing plastics.

"This report tells the story of how USDA support has made a tremendous difference in the lives of rural Americans," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Our investments help create jobs and opportunity for rural residents, provide affordable housing, support modern infrastructure, and build essential community facilities. I am proud of the role that USDA has played to grow rural economies and help make rural America a place of opportunity, innovation and economic growth."

Since President Obama was elected, USDA business programs have provided more than 18,000 guaranteed loans, direct loans and grants, which have helped more than 74,000 business in creating or saving more than 375,000 jobs, a USDA press release said. The report also highlighted more than 175,000 homes purchased through rural development loans, 120,000 broadband connections made through infrastructure loans and funding for 1,000 community facilities.

The more than 60 page report highlights many specific projects, including the loan guarantee awarded to Laurel BioComposites LLC, which celebrated with a ribbon cutting and open house in September of last year.  The company, which had its start in 2007, produces trademarked Bio-Res pellets and powder products that can be used to replace or enhance petrochemical-based resins. The USDA partnered with Security Bank in Laurel, Neb., to provide a $5 million B&I loan guarantee so the company could purchase equipment and capital to startup and operate in the first year. The company also received other funds from outside sources. “Today, the company is operating one production line and is expected to begin full-scale production later this year,” the USDA said. “When full-scale production begins, the company plans to double its work force from seven currently to 13 to 15 workers on the plant floor.”

Another story included in the report is about Enginutity Worldwide, a Columbia, Mo., based company that developed a 97 percent durable and water-resistant pellet that is shaped and sized to mix well with coal. The pellet is produced from feedstocks such as corn stover and switchgrass. USDA provided the company with a $500,000 Rural Energy for America Program grant that will be used to help the company build a production facility.

More information about rural development projects can be found at a new interactive website map, which features information about funding in the last four fiscal years. Specifically, under the category of energy, the website says $800 million has been invested in energy, including biorefineries, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Energy projects have been funded in all 50 states and $193 in grants and $165 in loan guarantees have been provided to agricultural producers and rural small businesses.