USDA Undersecretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsanger on Tuesday released the 2011 Rural Development Progress Report, which highlights the investments that have been made during the past year to create jobs and improve rural communities across the country.
"Last year Rural Development investments totaled almost $29 billion and created or saved an estimated 440,000 jobs," Tonsanger said during a conference call with the press. "In one way or another USDA and Rural Development touched virtually every American in 2011."
Tonsanger told reporters that USDA is partnering with businesses, non-profits, cooperatives, tribes and local government to do their part in stimulating economic activity and create opportunities for job growth in rural America.
"In the 2011 fiscal year Rural Development through its Rural Business Cooperative, Utilities and Housing programs provided housing opportunities for over 143,000 families," Tonsanger said. "We upgraded community facilities across the country, supported improvements to the national electric grid, funded renewable energy projects, and expanded access to affordable, high quality internet service for rural residents through Community Connect and other broadband programs."
Roughly 63% of Rural Development's Fiscal Year 2011 investments served to increase access to capital for rural businesses, communities, and home buyers without a direct cost to the federal government.
"About 34% of Rural Development investments last year were made in the form of secure, affordable direct loans that will be paid back to the government with interest," Tonsanger said. "Through its rural utilities program Rural Development provided more than 800 direct loans to help small communities install or upgrade their water and waste water systems and upgrade landfills to protect environmental quality."
Rural Development also provided more than $300 million for renewable energy projects and also continued rolling out broadband projects to improve access.
"Rural Development also provided more than $63 million in direct loans to help local organizations capitalize self-renewing, revolving loan funds that last year assisted more than 1,000 small rural businesses," Tonsanger said. "In total, these relending programs are estimated to have helped local communities create or save nearly 20,000 jobs."
Tonsanger says that the demand for the resource provided by Rural Development and the number of projects that have been funded is seen as an indicator of the desire or rural communities to be successful and move forward.