Last week, I joined Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and other members of the Obama administration for the first meeting of the White House Rural Council.
The goal of the council is to advance policies that promote economic prosperity in rural America. I know the SBA will play an important role in this endeavor. Small businesses are part of the fabric of rural communities. They line Main Streets in small towns, and they are crucial job creators in rural economies. SBA is committed to helping these small businesses get the tools they need to grow and create jobs.
One way SBA already supports rural small businesses is through our Advantage loan platform. These loan initiatives are designed to help businesses in underserved markets such as rural communities gain access to much-needed capital. They streamline the application process and reduce the turnaround time, making it easier for lenders to make smaller loans that businesses rely on.
We’re also cross-training with USDA to make sure that we’re matching entrepreneurs, farmers, and rural business owners with the right loan programs. For example, the USDA can make loans to farmers, but if the owner of a non-farm small business visits the USDA, USDA staff now know to send that business owner to the SBA. And we’re sharing information and discussing ways to increase lending to food processors and other businesses that play a vital role in rural economies.
As a native of Indiana, rural issues are very important to me. I’ve seen first how small businesses can be catalysts for growth in rural communities. I talked with small business owners last summer at the Indiana State Fair, and I’m looking forward to meeting and speaking with more rural small business owners in the months ahead. Watch this blog for more updates as Council members head out to state fairs across the country to hear directly from rural America about what we can do to support rural communities and small businesses.