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USDA Administrator Facilitated a Roundtable Hosted by NCD, Tour Energy and Community Projects

More Than $74 Million in Investments in Rural Arizona Projects Highlighted


USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBS) Administrator Lillian Salerno began a three-day visit to southern Arizona to lead a business roundtable and tour USDA investments in renewable energy and community projects.

This morning, Salerno facilitated a roundtable hosted by the Nogales Community Development Corporation (NCD) to help rural businesses, including those in Arizona Colonias, learn how they may qualify for USDA loans and grants to fund business loan program that helps small, emerging businesses in Nogales.

“Money to help capitalize small businesses in rural areas is often hard to come by,” Salerno said. “NCD’s successful relending program has helped bring affordable loans to businesses that may not otherwise have been able to get started.”

Following the roundtable, Salerno and Arizona Rural Development State Director Alan Stephens will tour USDA-financed projects in Cochise, Pima and Santa Cruz counties. Since 2010, USDA Rural Development has invested $74.4 million for energy and community development projects in the rural parts of these counties.

Among the projects they plan to visit is the Bee Healthy health food store in Douglas, owned by Jose Coronel. Coronel and his wife received a $37,500 USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant to install a hybrid solar system.

REAP provides loan guarantees and grants to agricultural producers and rural small business for renewable energy systems, energy efficiency improvements and energy audits. Earlier this week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA is seeking new applications for REAP funding. See the May 5, Federal Register for details about how to apply.

Southern Arizona has the largest share of USDA REAP projects in the sate. “It’s gratifying that USDA is able to help businesses in these border communities,” Salerno said. “Lowering business owner’s energy costs helps them save money. In some cases, REAP is reducing businesses’ monthly energy costs by 50 percent. This frees up funds that can be reinvested in the business, saved for future needs or spent in the community.”

In Bisbee, Salerno will present a plaque to Cochise County Supervisor Ann English to commemorate a recent $146,000 USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program grant. The county used the USDA investment to expand elementary and middle school distance learning capabilities. The Distance Learning program provides loans and grants to help rural communities install advanced telecommunications technologies for enhanced learning and health care opportunities for rural residents.

Later during her tour, Salerno is expected to highlight Arizona’s recent designation as a StrikerForce sate. USDA is assisting rural Arizona counties through its StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity, an effort launched in 2010 to reduce poverty by increasing investments in rural communities through outreach and stronger partnerships with community leaders, businesses, foundations and other groups working to combat poverty.

USDA Rural Development invests in jobs, infrastructure, community development, health, education, homeownership and affordable rental housing to improve the economic health of rural communities. To learn more about USDA Rural Development programs in Arizona, visit www.rurdev.usda.gov/az or www.rurdev.usda.gov.

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