Rural business: USDA Rural Development offers grant program
On Feb. 2, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development (RD) Wyoming Business Programs Loan Assistant Lynelle Barber gave a presentation on RD’s Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) Program.
Purpose of program
The purpose of RBDG is to provide a competitive grant designed to support targeted technical assistance, training and other activities leading to the development or expansion of small and emerging rural business opportunities and business enterprise projects serving rural areas.
Eligible businesses include a business which has 50 or less new employees and less than $1 million in gross revenue. A rural area is considered a space with a population of 50,000 people or less.
Applications for Fiscal Year 2023 are due no later than 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 28.
Barber noted for-profit organizations are not eligible for funding, and the project must be located in a rural area. Eligible applicants can include state agencies or authorities, nonprofit entities serving rural areas, federally-recognized Tribes, nonprofit cooperatives and public institutions of higher education.
In addition, she noted applicants may be located in a non-rural area, but the project must be located in a rural area.
Applicants must have sufficient financial strength and expertise in activities proposed in the application to ensure accomplishment of the described activities and objectives, within their scope of work.
All applicants must register for “Financial Assistance Awards Only” at sam.gov and maintain registration throughout the grant period. Registration on the webpage is free.
Barber shared funds are not available for duplicate current services or substitute previously provided, pay costs of preparing the application package for funding under RBDG or any other program, pay costs for any expenses incurred prior to receipt of a full application, fund political activities, fund agricultural production and finance comprehensive area-wide type planning.
Available funding and projects used
According to USDA RD, there is no maximum grant amount. However, smaller requests are given higher priority. In addition, there is no cost sharing requirement.
There are two types of RBDG projects – opportunity grants and enterprise grants.
Opportunity-type grants are limited to up to 10 percent of the total RBDG funding, and enterprise-type grants must be used on projects to benefit small and emerging businesses in rural areas as specified in the grant application.
Opportunity-type funds can be used for community economic development, leadership and entrepreneur training, long-term business strategic planning, rural business incubators, feasibility studies and business plans and technology-based economic plans and must be consistent with any local and area-wide strategies.
Enterprise-type funds can be used for training and technical assistance, such as project planning, business counseling and training, market research, feasibility studies, rural distance learning for job training and advancement of adult students, rural transportation development and technology-based economic development projects, etc.
The RBDG program sets aside appropriated funds specifically for federally-recognized Native American Tribes, Native American Persistent Poverty and Strategic Economic and Community Development.
To date, a few of Wyoming’s RBDG success stories include the Wyoming Women’s Business Center, Powell Economic Partnership, Inc. and the Wyoming Agricultural Leadership Council, according to Barber.
Scoring and scoring criteria
Applicants are scored based on a preset of criteria. First-time applicants can receive additional points. The RBDG program is very competitive, so the higher the score, the more chance to receive funding, shared Barber.
All applicants are evaluated based on the following criteria: population, unemployment, median household income, economic distress/need in the area to be served, evidence that small business development supported by grant, showing job creation/support at local businesses, successful experience in type of activity, percent of non-federal funding committed to the project, size of grant request, indirect cost request and other factors such as COVID-19, climate and equity.
Interested parties should preregister with the free System for Award Management at sam.gov. Barber shared applicants will want to be filed as a legal entity with the Wyoming Secretary of State at wyobiz.wyo.gov/business/default.aspx.
“The RBDG Program provides a unique opportunity for nonprofit organizations to make a difference for local businesses and communities. Training and planning functions become more attainable to support economic development in even the smallest of communities,” shared Wyoming State Director for USDA RD Glenn Pauley.
For more information, visit rd.usda.gov/wy, rd.usda.gov/programs-services/business-programs/rural-business-development-grants/wy or call the Wyoming Rural Development Office at 307-233-6700.
Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to email@example.com.