Maxine Moul, Nebraska state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, updated the Southeast Nebraska Resource Network at its quarterly meeting March 20 at the Morton-James Public Library in Nebraska City.
Economic developers from Cass, Lancaster, Otoe and Saunders counties attended for round table discussions, business spotlights and a presentation regarding the public art project in Nebraska City.
Moul, a former state Lt. governor and Syracuse newspaper publisher, said rural development is focusing on partnerships with local government, the University of Nebraska, development districts and resource networks.
She said rural development has an intermediary function when it receives funds from the federal Department of Agriculture and passes them on to business through grants and revolving loans.
She said revolving loan funds are having an incredible impact across the state.
“We have funds working in every county of Nebraska,” she said.
In one re-lending program offered in Nebraska, businesses can borrow up to $1 million at 1 percent interest for 30 years.
Moul said there is $302 million available in the program nationwide. Nebraska has $5 million in loans out.
She said Nebraska has helped 17 businesses through the Rural Business Enterprise Grant since 1989.
The Rural Economic Development Loan and Grants program traditionally assists utility providers, but Moul said the U.S. Congress expanded the program three years ago to include city-owned utilities.
In 2011, Nebraska City was the third city in Nebraska to have its utilities recognized for the program.
Auburn was recognized in November and Beatrice recognized in March.
She said the Rural Microenterprise Assistance Program has loans and grants available for businesses with fewer than 10 employees that are located in cities with a population less than 50,000. Program funds be for working capital, debt financing, business acquisition and land purchases.
Moul said rural development is interested in the re-lending programs to accompany the state's business and industry loan guarantee programs.
“Often times very small entrepreneurs are not eligible for a bank loan, but, if we can help them start through a revolving loan fund, they can get to the point where are eligible for a bank loan. Then we can come in and help with our loan guarantees,” she said.