How small businesses are driving the rural economy

Elsie Meeks

Elsie Meeks

By Elsie M. Meeks

In rural America, the local community drives the rural economy. Money spent and invested locally rolls through a community and generates even more economic benefits.

That’s why rural small businesses are critical to strong rural communities. And it’s why USDA joined with the Small Business Administration to recognize and honor America’s small businesses, during National Small Business Week last week.

President Barack Obama marked the beginning of Small Business Week by issuing a Presidential Proclamation for the 50th year running.

At USDA, we have the expertise and financing to help small businesses to thrive. Our assistance has a significant impact on rural communities. In 2012, we helped 50 South Dakota businesses through our business programs, impacting 1,873 local jobs.

USDA Rural Development invests in many sectors of the South Dakota economy. Helping to grow businesses that support local and regional foods, investing in the bio-based economy and assisting intermediary organizations relend to small rural businesses are just a few ways this is being accomplished in South Dakota.

USDA Rural Development has programs to help keep business operating costs low through programs, such as the Rural Energy for America Program and the Value-Added Producer Grant Program. For example, the Lower Brule Farm Corporation was awarded a VAPG to help fund the cost of becoming Safe Quality Food Certified, hire a Quality Assurance Manager, purchase supplies, and develop marketing and sales strategies.

In fiscal year 2012, a total of 16 South Dakota businesses received REAP grants for installing renewable or energy efficient systems or conducting feasibility studies to do so, saving on operating costs while contributing to cutting carbon emissions.

Last week, Secretary Vilsack announced 54 new awards under our Rural Business Enterprise Grant program to help rural small businesses in 21 states expand and grow. These grants will be used for feasibility studies, improved web marketing, tourism outreach and new facilities. They’re just one more step that USDA is taking to give rural businesses tools to grow and create jobs.

Finally, through our revolving loan programs, USDA Rural Development is helping intermediary organizations that we lend to meet the challenge of assisting small businesses in the communities they serve. In 2012, $1,003,000 was provided to three intermediaries to assist rural South Dakota businesses and helping to create and retain jobs.

At USDA, supporting the local small businesses that will build new opportunity across America’s small towns and rural communities is a priority.

Elsie M. Meeks is the State Director for the USDA Rural Development in South Dakota. She has more than 25 years of experience in economic development in Indian Country and at local, state and national levels. USDA Rural Development’s mission is “To increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for all Americans.” There are eight office locations throughout the state of South Dakota. Visit our website at:



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