USDA seeking grant applications


The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Cheyenne announced that it is seeking applications for grants and loans to establish or expand businesses in rural areas.

According to the USDA’s news release, the agency has $37 million to be loaned, and $11 million in grants available. The funds are earmarked for businesses that will either create or retain jobs in rural areas, the agency said in the release. The loans and grants can be used for new business startups or expansions of existing businesses, the release said.

“Our small, rural businesses need financing to compete in the global economy,” Sam Rikkers, the Rural Business Cooperative-Service Administrator for the USDA said in a release. “These loans and grants will spur entrepreneurship and create jobs and improve the quality of life in rural America.”

According to the USDA, many businesses in rural areas specialize in natural resource development or processing. Agriculture, forestry, mining food processing and other natural resource-based industries continue to be the dominant forms of business in rural communities, along with public-sector employment.

Many rural economies that are not favored with mountains, lakes, rivers or other scenery that make the area desirable for tourism and recreation rely more heavily on manufacturing to support local economies, according to an agency report. However, the manufacturing sector faces significant threats from international competition. Grants and loans like the ones the USDA is offering can be used to modernize manufacturing to maintain a competitive edge with overseas companies, the agency said.

Other areas with recreation and tourism opportunities do comparatively well in terms of quality of life and economic vigor, the USDA said. Even though tourism and recreation jobs are often associated with low-wage jobs, areas with strong employment in the recreation sector tend to correlate with higher average wage and income levels. But, residents in such areas can be faced with the difficulty of expensive housing, the agency said.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the hospitality and leisure sector is the second largest private employment sector in Wyoming, behind energy. In February, the BLS estimated that the hospitality and leisure sector lost about 3 percent of its workforce compared to the same month in the previous year.

Those interested in applying for a grant or a loan can contact Debra Anderson, Area Specialist and Coordinator at USDA at 307-672-5820. The first round of applications was due on March 31, but second round applications are accepted until June 30.


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