By Ryan Thorn
WV State Director, USDA Rural Development
This year, National Entrepreneurship Week runs from Feb. 11-18. It’s a time for us to celebrate our entrepreneurs and recognize the impact they play in the success of our state and our nation. West Virginians have a strong entrepreneurial spirit and it’s important for us to foster that culture and make sure they have the resources they need to succeed.
Rural entrepreneurs create good-paying jobs for people living in their communities. They start businesses and industries that expand financial opportunity while delivering products and services that improve our lives. Under the leadership of President Biden and Secretary Vilsack, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is dedicated to helping West Virginians through job creation and expansion of entrepreneurial opportunities in the rural places they live.
Just how is USDA supporting rural entrepreneurs and investing in small businesses? At Rural Development we’re doing this through programs such as our Value-Added Producer Grant Program, which helps agricultural producers enter value-added activities to generate new products, create and expand marketing opportunities, and increase producer income.
Last year, through the Value-Added Producer program, we awarded $249,660 to Mountain Steer Meat Company in Greenbrier County. This investment was used to assist with the development and start-up of a retail location. The funding allowed Mountain Steer to not only create new jobs but make fresh, locally raised and processed beef readily accessible to consumers in West Virginia.
We’re also helping entrepreneurs and businesses bolster their bottom line with the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), the program provides eligible small businesses with grant funding to make energy efficiency upgrades at their operations or to install renewable energy systems. REAP will receive an additional $2 billion in funding over the next decade through President Biden’s historic legislative package, the Inflation Reduction Act. Last year, Rural Development invested more than $1 million through this program to help agricultural producers and entrepreneurs in West Virginia cut energy costs.
For instance, in December 2022 we awarded $69,128 to Handley House, Inc. in Marshall County. The funds are being used to purchase and install LED lighting and a heating and air condition system. This project will help this small rural business save $7,738 per year in energy costs. Applications for the REAP program are currently being accepted, and I would encourage our rural businesses to reach out to Rural Development staff and find out how this program can help them reduce their utility expenses.
Supporting entrepreneurs is about more than just financial assistance. Starting a business can be intimidating and it can be difficult figuring out where to begin. That’s why Rural Development has created a Resource Guide for Rural Entrepreneurs designed to help rural entrepreneurs start and grow businesses, create good-paying jobs and strengthen West Virginia’s economy. We also created a Resource Guide for Rural Workforce Development, which contains info rural communities need to start and expand employment opportunities and create a sustainable workforce.
West Virginia’s rural entrepreneurs are critical to the success of our nation’s economy. USDA Rural Development is committed to advocating for rural business owners and building brighter futures for everyone in rural West Virginia. Our rural entrepreneurs create good-paying jobs for people living in their communities. They start businesses and industries that expand financial opportunity while delivering products and services that improve our lives.
Fostering a strong business climate and providing resources for new businesses is crucial to their success. At Rural Development we’re assisting communities with this through programs such as the Rural Business Development Grant Program, which supports technical assistance and training for small rural businesses, the creation of entrepreneurship incubators, assists with the acquisition and redevelopment of publicly owned land and buildings used to spur economic development, the creation of workforce training programs, and so much more. In October 2022, we awarded $65,000 to the Little Kanawha Development Corporation in Wirt County to create a centrally located space to be a focal point for entrepreneurial activity to accelerate the growth of existing small businesses by providing resources, networks, and support required for them to raise capital and be sustainable ventures.
Last year, we invested $11 million through our business and cooperative programs to support rural entrepreneurs and small businesses in West Virginia. We do this because when rural communities succeed, West Virginia succeeds, when West Virginia succeeds, our nation succeeds and by continuing to work together, West Virginia will continue to prosper. Join us this National Entrepreneurship Week, Feb. 11-16, as we celebrate the success and importance of entrepreneurs across the Mountain State.
You can learn more about our programs by visiting our website or by calling 304-284-4860.
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