Washington, DC - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the investment of more than $9 million in loans and grants to support job growth and economic development in 12 states. The funding is being provided through USDA's Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) program, through which USDA provides zero-interest loans and grants to utilities that lend funds to local businesses for projects to create and retain employment.

"Small businesses are the cornerstone of the rural economy," Vilsack said. "During the Obama Administration, USDA's investments have directly helped more than 100,000 small business get off the ground or expand, and the projects announced today will help 15 more rural communities see job growth and economic development."

One of the organizations selected for funding is the Crawford Electric Cooperative in Bourbon, Mo. It has been approved for a $1 million loan to help East Central College create a workforce development training facility on its campus in Union, Mo. The facility will provide job training in manufacturing to support workers and businesses in an eight-county region served by the college. The project area includes counties where poverty is persistent as well as areas designated for targeted assistance through USDA's StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative. This project is expected to create 11 jobs.

Winnebago Cooperative Telecom Association in Lake Mills, Iowa, is being selected for a $780,000 loan to help All States Ag Parts relocate to a larger facility in Lake Mills. Funds will be used to purchase machinery, equipment and inventory. This project is expected to create 51 jobs.

Under today's announcement, USDA is investing in 15 projects to create jobs and expand economic opportunity in rural communities. Funding of each award announced today is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan or grant agreement.

USDA Rural Development has a strong track record of strengthening rural businesses and economies through its Rural Business-Cooperative Service. For example, in 2015, Four County EMC used a $2 million REDLG loan to help Acme Smoked Fish Corp. in Pender County, N.C., buy equipment to process and smoke salmon, herring and other fish. Pender County has struggled since the economic downturn in the late 2000s. The REDLG loan has brought more than 120 full-time jobs to the region. Since 2009, USDA has invested more than $330 million in loans and grants through the REDLG program.