Rural small businesses are a key part of America's economy. They supply our food and energy, safeguard our natural resources, and are essential in the development of science and innovation.
Though rural communities face numerous challenges, they also present enormous economic potential. And that's why the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is committed to helping small businesses in rural areas so they can continue to create the jobs of the future and strengthen economic security for the middle class.
To help provide rural America with the tools they need, the SBA is playing a key leadership role on the White House Rural Council to promote economic growth, maximize the impact of federal investment and enhance the quality of life in our rural communities.
A recent White House Rural Council report lays out the economic landscape rural Americans face today and highlights the Administration and SBA's key accomplishments in rural communities, and includes:
w Putting nearly $3 billion in lending into the hands of 10,000 rural small business owners across America.
w Mentoring and training over 1 million entrepreneurs and small business owners, many in rural communities, through SBA's vast network of Small Business Development Centers, Women Business Centers, Veterans Business Centers and SCORE chapters.
w And expanding broadband access to over 350,000 rural businesses.
The SBA can now do even more because the Administration has announced new jobs initiatives recommended by the Council.
For example, as part of the Startup America Initiative, SBA recently announced the creation of a $1 billion Impact Investment Fund through its Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program which doubles the current rate of investment.
And, SBA's new Intermediary Lending Pilot Program will provide direct loans of up to $1 million to 20 community intermediaries, which in turn will help finance small businesses, mostly in rural and underserved markets.
We know that SBA makes loans to rural businesses and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) makes loans to farmers. That's why we're partnering with USDA to make sure we're matching entrepreneurs, farmers, and rural business owners with the right loan programs by cross-training our field staff.
In addition, SBA and USDA will launch a series of Rural Private Equity and Venture Capital conferences nationwide to provide a platform for connecting investors with rural start-ups.
For example, it's these types of tools and collaboration that are assisting small rural businesses gain a competitive edge. SBA's Export Working Capital & Export Express lending programs helped No.9 Hay LLC, a rural small business founded by Bradley and Robert Haberman. No.9 Hay buys and compresses Alfalfa and Timothy hay into compact bales. Although purchased locally, nearly all their finished product is sent overseas to countries such as Japan, Korea, United Arab Emirates, and China.
America's entrepreneurial spirit remains strong, whether it's on a farm or in a factory. Sustainable rural communities are essential to winning the future and ensuring American competitiveness in the years ahead. Our continued commitment at SBA is to work as hard as possible to help them succeed.
The U.S. Small Business Administration, through our local offices and resource partners, stands ready to help rural small businesses. For more information on how the SBA can help you, visit www. sba.gov.
-- Calvin W. Goings is the region 10 administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration. He oversees small-business programs and initiatives in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. Email him at email@example.com.