USDA programs offer resources for rural businesses, entrepeneurs

By Bill Menner, Iowa Director, USDA Rural Development I saw a television commercial recently that celebrates legendary businesses originally launched in garages, basements or at the kitchen table. I thought about that commercial last week as I was driving on Interstate 80 past the Kinze Manufacturing Inc. complex near Williamsburg. It has been almost 50 years since Kinze founder Jon Kinzenbaw opened a small welding shop in Victor, at the age of 21. He turned that small, rural business into one of the largest specialty manufacturers in North America. I’d like to think that if Jon were starting today, he would take the same steps that Craig Stuart-Paul took when he was preparing to revolutionize his Fiberight ethanol plant in Blairstown, converting it to allow the production of biofuels from municipal solid waste. Craig called USDA Rural Development to see how the agency could help. USDA Rural Development exists to ensure that small towns and rural areas have the access to capital, resources and assistance they need to compete. Whether focused on housing, water, critical facilities or utilities, we work with rural places and rural people. And this includes rural small businesses and, increasingly, rural entrepreneurs. Sometimes our work focuses on support provided to others. For example, Central City got a grant in 2012 that allowed its economic development office to start a revolving loan fund. That fund can provide gap financing to a small business already working with a local bank. Or, funding went to the Amana-based Iowa Valley RC&D to hire a local foods coordinator. Jason Grimm works hand-in-hand with small fruit and vegetable growers and livestock…