WASHINGTON, D.C. – Bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to expand access to much-needed resources and investment for rural entrepreneurs to start and expand local businesses was included in the Farm Bill that passed the Senate earlier this week. The legislation now heads to the House of Representatives for a final vote.
“Rural communities in North Carolina and across the country face limited access to capital to be able to start and expand their small businesses, resulting in lost economic activity and job creation in areas that need it most,”said Senator Tillis. “We should be doing everything we can to take advantage of the opportunities in these parts of the country, and I am proud the Rural Jobs and Investment Act was included in the Farm Bill to expand the resources rural entrepreneurs need to build companies and create new jobs.”
The legislation creates a new grant program to invest in local efforts to launch new companies and create new jobs in rural communities. The grant program would invest up to $2 million per award to community-driven initiatives to help improve the local economies of rural areas by doing the following:
Helping rural entrepreneurs and businesses connect to new markets;
Providing skills training to prepare workers for quality jobs and providing businesses with the workforce they need for success;
Investing in infrastructure upgrades required to support new business growth, including the deployment of high-speed internet service;
Turning more research and development at universities and other research institutions into new companies and business growth; and
Revitalizing downtowns with new innovation centers to serve as spaces for mixed-use housing, business development, training, and co-working.
This bipartisan legislation would also expand the use of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Community Facilities Program to invest in business incubators, makerspaces, and job training centers to provide additional resources for communities to support their entrepreneurs. The Community Facilities Program provides direct loans, loan guarantees, and grants to improve public services and public facilities in rural communities. In addition, the bill would expand access to capital for rural entrepreneurs by encouraging investment in rural areas. Currently, the USDA has one program to help address these capital challenges, the Rural Business Investment Program, but this program is limited in the types of industries that it can invest in, as well as the amount of capital it can attract.
This bipartisan bill has been endorsed by the American Farm Bureau, Farm Credit Council, National Association of Counties, National Association of Development Organizations, National Cooperative Business Association, and the Rural Community Assistance Partnership.