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Ag Deputy Secretary announces financial support for CT

By Weldon Freeman (USDA Press Release 3/27/10)

  MARCH 30, 2010 --

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today announced financial support intended to spur economic development and protect natural resources in the Quinebaug and Shetucket River Valley in Connecticut.

"USDA is helping the people of Connecticut preserve this area's natural and cultural resources while promoting sustainable economic growth opportunities," said Merrigan. "The funding support the Obama Administration is announcing today will further local efforts to save and create jobs in this region while also protecting what local residents call 'the Last Green Valley.'"

At the Working Lands Alliance's Tenth Anniversary Conference, held at Yale University, Merrigan announced that a total of $207,000 in funds from the Rural Business Enterprise Grant program (RBEG) will be provided to several organizations around Connecticut to improve economic opportunities in the area.

About an hour's drive from three of New England's largest urban areas, "the Last Green Valley" is an area of fields, forests and rugged hills. Forest and farmland make up 78 percent of its 695,000 acres.

The Last Green Valley, Inc., a non-profit organization Congress designated to manage this nationally recognized area, has been selected to receive a $28,000 RBEG to create a website to help farmers locate educational information, business assistance and marketing opportunities. The organization was also selected to receive a second $28,000 RBEG to create a "mastering the business of agriculture" educational program where farmers will receive classroom instruction on how to create effective business plans.

USDA also selected the Northwest Connecticut Chamber Education Foundation to receive a $30,000 grant to renovate a historic diner in Torrington, Conn. The building will be converted into a tourism and business center for the Northwest Connecticut Chamber of Commerce. An additional $308,000 will be leveraged from other sources for the renovation project.

Two additional Connecticut organizations were selected for funding:

  • The Northeast Connecticut Economic Alliance will receive a $40,000 grant to provide technical assistance to small businesses under the Alliance's revolving loan fund, which serves 21 towns in the northeastern part of the state. The funding will help firms that have been unable to secure credit.
  • The Eastern Connecticut Resource Conservation and Development Area, Inc. was selected to receive two grants totaling $81,000. The organization will use $41,000 to help a slaughterhouse in Stafford Springs, Conn. conduct an environmental quality analysis. The remaining funds will provide outreach and technical assistance to applicants for USDA Rural Development's Rural Energy for America Program.

Today's funding announcement builds on previously announced support provided by USDA for the area. For example, in December 2009, in nearby Killingly, USDA provided the Quinebaug Valley Emergency Communications, Inc. a $1.8 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Community Facilities loan to renovate a vacant facility to house the organization's communications center. The center serves 34 fire departments and 15 ambulance organizations in the region. The funding helped create or save 19 jobs.

The funding is provided through the Rural Business Enterprise Grant program (RBEG), which is administered by USDA Rural Development and provides grants for rural projects to finance the development of small businesses that will employ 50 or fewer people and have less than $1 million in projected gross revenues. Generally, grants range from $10,000 to $500,000. Rural public entities (towns, communities, State agencies, and authorities), Indian tribes and rural private non-profit corporations are eligible to apply. To learn more about this program, visit www.rurdev.usda.gov/rbs/busp/rbeg.htm.

USDA Rural Development administers and manages more than 40 housing, business, and community infrastructure and facility programs through a network of 6,100 employees located in Washington, D.C., and 500 state and local offices. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of more than $132 billion in loans and loan guarantees.



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