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Program Assists NEK Manufacturers

Program Assists NEK Manufacturers


July 10, 2012

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the selection of Lyndon State College-based Incubator Without Walls (I WoW) as a recipient of a Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG). The grant, one of 27 loans and grants awarded nation-wide, is provided by USDA Rural Development. IWoW, one of five Vermont organizations receiving a grant, will receive $129,429 to expand its program to provide technical assistance to Northeast Kingdom (NEK) manufacturers.

“I am excited about the way in which this grant will continue to help our efforts to engage more of our students in Northeast Kingdom’s business development activities,” said Lyndon’s President Joe Bertolino.

The RBEG program provides grants to small and emerging rural businesses for projects such as distance learning networks and employment-related adult education programs. Rural public entities (towns, communities, State agencies and municipal authorities), Indian tribes and rural private non-profit corporations are eligible to apply for funding under this program.

“The funding I am announcing today will help rural businesses, entrepreneurs and tribal communities obtain the financing they need to grow their businesses and create jobs,” Vilsack said. “These grants and loans represent the Obama Administration’s commitment to ensure that rural communities attract capital investments that lead to successful business development, job creation, infrastructure improvements, and economically vibrant communities.”

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy said, “This is the latest proof of the boost that REAP (Rural Economic Area Partnership) Zone status lends to the Northeast Kingdom’s continued agricultural renaissance and to the ongoing work to create a diverse regional economy. At a time when nearly every federal budget is being cut, NEK’s REAP Zone helps USDA Rural Development properly prioritize rural areas where this leverage can help the most, and areas like the NEK that have a proven track record of making good use of federal investments. The REAP Program makes a difference in Vermont communities, and that’s why I will continue the fight to renew its charter.”

IWoW and the NEK Manufacturing Training Program are the two core initiatives of the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship (CRE). The CRE focuses on powering economic growth by connecting student and faculty talent with NEK employers primarily to help create and keep jobs in the NEK. Since its inception in 2007, thanks to USDA Rural Development funding, IWoW has served 74 businesses and involved 183 students in hands-on learning experiences that helped create or keep 78 jobs.

CRE Director Ann Nygard weighed in, “The grant increases IWoW’s ability to create jobs. Five to eight jobs outside the factory are created for each manufacturing job added inside-whether it is wood, machine, food, or bio-medical manufacturing. The potential for growth is tremendous. The funding allows the hiring of an Outreach Coordinator who will pair businesses with students for hands-on learning opportunities.”

In 2000, Senators Leahy and James Jeffords were instrumental in helping secure REAP Zone status for the NEK. The REAP Zone designation was in response to the area’s disproportionately high poverty levels, low household income rates, and high unemployment rates. Over the past 13 years, REAP Zone status has helped secure tens of millions of dollars in funding for infrastructure, public safety, and housing needs in addition to helping support small businesses while growing the area’s tourism, manufacturing and agriculture industries.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure programs through a national network of 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.