USDA Rural Development's investment in rural Iowa topped $801 million in 2010 thanks to additional funding made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and special federal dollars targeted to help Iowans recover from flooding and severe weather in 2008.
"Loans and grants issued through our programs helped create or retain more than 2,200 jobs in rural Iowa, aided 2,500 families in buying their own homes and assisted more than 250 rural communities as they made improvements to their facilities, services and infrastructure," says Bill Menner, state director for USDA's Rural Development agency in Iowa.
Supporting healthcare in rural Iowa continued to be an agency priority during the year as the USDA mission area assisted more than 20 health-care related projects across the state with $67 million in loans and grants.
Supporting healthcare improvements in rural Iowa is a priority
One of these projects was the Belmond Medical Center in Belmond which received $24 million to assist with a large hospital expansion and renovation. Around $21.6 million was a direct loan through the Recovery Act. A $2.4 million guaranteed loan was also provided to First State Bank in Belmond on a loan the bank has with the hospital.
The 22-bed critical access hospital was built in 1952 and is not large enough to meet the healthcare needs of area residents. When completed, the hospital will add 55,000 square-feet and include a new hospital entrance, emergency room, surgery area, acute-care area, therapy area and helicopter stop. The remodeling will add additional clinic, specialty clinic and office space.
"This health-care improvement project in Belmond is a tremendous example of how the Recovery Act is creating jobs and helping to improve vital community infrastructure and services, as the President and Congress intended," he says. The new addition is expected to be completed by November 2011 and the remodeling finished by May 2012.
"Whether the project is a new medical clinic, hospital, fire station, fire truck, emergency equipment, community building, assisted living facility, library, child care center, or rural water, telephone, electric or broadband projects, USDA Rural Development is ready to assist," says Menner.
USDA makes loan funds available to boost jobs in rural areas
USDA Rural Development also invested $165 million through its business programs during the year to promote economic growth in rural Iowa.
More than 30 businesses in rural Iowa accessed $110 million in guaranteed loan funds through USDA Rural Development during the past year. Funds from the Recovery Act played a big role in assisting many of these guaranteed loans.
GMT Corporation, a major employer in Waverly and Nashua in northeast Iowa, received $10 million in Recovery Act loan guarantees through USDA Rural Development in 2010. The guarantees will help the company to refinance debt owed to various lenders, purchase new equipment, grow into new markets and further diversify its production.
USDA loan and grant programs also help boost renewable energy
Iowa continued to be a leader in using USDA loan and grant programs to help with renewable energy production and energy-efficiency improvements. This past year, 561 producers and businesses in Iowa received $44 million from the agency's Rural Energy for America Program. This program provides financial assistance to help farmers and business owners make energy-efficiency improvements, as well as install renewable energy systems such as wind turbines, as well as geothermal and solar systems.
Finally, more than 10,700 families and households used $261 million from USDA Rural Development housing programs in 2010. USDA has two low-interest, no-down-payment loan programs to help eligible families living in rural communities and areas purchase new or existing homes. Loans, and some grants, are also available to help families make needed repairs to their homes.
Eligible homes must be located in a rural area and/or community of 20,000 persons or less. In most cases, a family of four with an adjusted annual income of up to $74,050 may qualify for the agency's guaranteed home loan program. If that same family of four's adjusted annual income is less than $45,600 they may also qualify for a direct loan from the agency. These income limits increase in communities located near metro areas.
USDA Rural Development also provides financing for 500 multi-family housing projects in rural Iowa. These projects provide rural Iowans with access to more than 9,600 apartments. Rent in these apartments is based on income, and rental assistance is available depending on the income of the tenant.
USDA funding is helping expand broadband service in rural Iowa
"The impact of the Recovery Act in rural Iowa has been tremendous," Menner said. "Since being signed into law by President Obama in February 2009, more than $364 million from the Recovery Act allowed our agency to provide affordable housing, build critical rural infrastructure, provide jobs and access to capital, and extend high-speed broadband services in rural Iowa."
For example, nearly $120 million in Recovery Act funding is being used to help expand broadband services to more than more than 200,000 rural Iowans.
Southwest Telephone Exchange, Inc., received nearly $6 million in loans and grants to assist a fiber-to-the-home broadband deployment project which will provide high speed internet service to Imogene, Emerson, Henderson and their surrounding rural areas in Fremont and Mills counties. It is anticipated that the project will provide broadband to more than 1,500 people, 55 businesses and nine community institutions.
Do you have a project in mind to help create jobs in rural Iowa?
The Obama Administration has identified the five pillars for the USDA including local and regional food systems, broadband, renewable energy, the great outdoors and ecosystems markets. "The Rural Development agency's mission area can have an impact with every one of those pillars," says Menner. "If you have a project in mind that will create jobs in rural Iowa, or improve the quality of life for rural residents, please contact us today."
For more information about programs offered by USDA Rural Development, call 515-284-4663, visit www.rurdev.usda.gov/ia, or stop by one of the 11 USDA Rural Development office locations in Iowa that serve 1.9 million Iowans living in rural areas and communities. Office locations include a state office in Des Moines, along with area offices in Albia, Atlantic, Humboldt, Indianola, Iowa Falls, Le Mars, Mount Pleasant, Storm Lake, Tipton and Waverly.
USDA Rural Development is an equal opportunity lender with a variety of direct and guaranteed rural credit programs involving single and multi-family housing, community facilities, water and sewer development and business and cooperative programs. USDA Rural Development's 2010 annual report for Iowa can be viewed at www.rurdev.usda.gov/ia/2010_Annual_Report.pdf.