USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that USDA is seeking applications for grants to help rural businesses create jobs and spur economic development.

"This funding is part of the Obama administration's commitment to using existing federal resources to foster regional innovation, create sustainable jobs and help ensure long-term prosperity," says Vilsack. "The funding will speed up job creation and new business start-ups and expansions by building regional economic systems in rural areas.”

USDA Rural Development Innovation(RCDI) plans to award up to $8.6 million through the Rural Community Development Initiative program. Applications are sought for projects that:

  • Provide technical assistance to improve the capacity of local organizations to complete successful housing, economic development and community facilities projects;
  • Help recipients complete pre-development requirements – such as architectural and engineering plans;
  • Help development organizations improve their board operations, management and knowledge of financial and information technology systems;
  • Provide homeownership education or training for entrepreneurs.

Part of the RCDI funds to be awarded may be used for projects associated with the Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, which was announced on March 8, 2012. This initiative was designed by the Taskforce for the Advancement of Regional Innovation Clusters and the White House Rural Council. Vilsack chairs the council. The Jobs Accelerator is being funded by USDA, the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration, the Delta Regional Authority and the Appalachian Regional Commission.

The deadline for submitting RCDI applications is May 9, 2012. Applications must be submitted to the USDA Rural Development state office where the applicant's headquarters are located.

The deadline to apply for RCDI funding for Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator projects is May 9, 2012. Applications for Jobs Accelerator projects must be submitted to both USDA and the EDA.

Since taking office, President Obama's administration has taken historic steps to improve the lives of rural Americans, put people back to work and build thriving economies in rural communities. From proposing the American Jobs Act to establishing the first-ever White House Rural Council – chaired by Vilsack – the President wants the federal government to be the best possible partner for rural businesses and entrepreneurs and for people who want to live, work and raise their families in rural communities.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $165 billion in affordable loans and loan guarantees. 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.