USDA Announces Grants

St. Johnsbury Benefits from USDA Grant.

Nineteen Vermont non-profits and municipalities will launch economic development projects aimed at building vibrant communities through job creation with the support of grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). These competitive grants were announced on September 30 in Barre, when USDA officials were joined by U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch to announce more than $1 million in Rural Business Development Grants at the Barre Opera House, which received a grant to expand the vital downtown theater’s fundraising capacity.

“Vermont communities are notable for their individuality, both in the challenges that they face and the assets that they possess to overcome those challenges,” said USDA Rural Development Vermont and New Hampshire State Director Ted Brady. “By supporting the efforts of local non-profits and municipalities, USDA aims to empower these communities by turning these assets into job creating activities, strengthening local economies and adding to the communities’ economic resilience.”

Brady announced that the 19 entities received a total of $1,344,414 in grants to undertake efforts aimed at supporting job creation and retention, strengthening local businesses, and supporting community institutions. The grants leveraged an additional $834,265 of local, private and state funding. Brady estimates the funding will assist over 130 Vermont businesses and create or retain 246 jobs.

“The Vermont method to economic development has typically been driven by local and grassroots efforts.  I have been proud to work with USDA to ensure that our towns and nonprofits have resources to invest in their communities to drive job creation efforts,” said Leahy who is the senior-most member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which writes Farm Bills.  “What is truly striking about these grants is that they touch every corner of our state, and all types of projects, from help for startups to job training.  I am particularly heartened to see more than $1 million supporting jobs in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom REAP Zone.”

“These grants are good news for Vermont,” Rep. Welch said. “Investing in our communities will spur economic progress from the Northeast Kingdom to Bennington. I’m excited that these communities will be taking advantage of this opportunity to create jobs and grow their local economies.”

Brady said the Barre Opera House will use a $23,500 grant to develop a fundraising plan to help support the organization’s upcoming capital campaign. The Barre Opera House is an essential facet of central Vermont’s creative economy providing community members with access to performance art and attracting visitors to downtown Barre. Brady noted that arts organizations like the Barre Opera House create educational opportunities, enrich a community’s culture, and drive the economic wellbeing of downtowns across Vermont.

The St. Johnsbury Chamber of Commerce received $70,000 to support local businesses through marketing and technical assistance. “This award includes many concrete programs that address needs that we’ve heard from area businesses. One example is that we’ll be able to help the Northeast Kingdom Artisans Guild promote its artists statewide by providing necessary funds for their application to Vermont Attractions Association,” says Tara Holt, director of the St. Johnsbury Chamber. “We are so excited to be able to enhance our downtown through tangible support that makes it easier for visitors to recognize the amazing assets in St. Johnsbury.”

Other recipients include the Town of Craftsbury, which received a $99,950 grant to construct 4.33 miles of fiber cable that will improve the community’s internet connectivity resulting in expanded opportunities for 25 local businesses. Energy Action Network of Montpelier received a $19,000 grant to provide technical assistance to communities as they consider how to best incentivize and utilize renewable energy and energy efficiency efforts.

Fifteen of the grants went to support Northeast Kingdom communities in USDA’s Rural Economic Area Partnership (REAP) Zone. The $1,186,414 investment is part of a set-aside of Rural Development funding authored by Leahy and supported by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch that is only available to REAP Zones in Vermont, New York and North Dakota. Vermont’s REAP Zone was created in 2000 and includes Caledonia, Essex and Orleans counties.

USDA, through its RD mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of $215 billion in loans and loan guarantees. 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 areas. For more information on Rural Development visit the Vermont Rural Development website (www.rd.usda.gov/vt ) or contact USDA RD at (802) 828-6000.

###

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.