Rural Business Specialist, USDA
Phone: 434-392-4906 x125
You work mostly with Agricultural Producers, does this work have an impact on small towns?
It certainly has an impact on small towns. Within my particular division, Rural Business, we do have programs that agricultural producers can take advantage of. The value Added Producer Grant Program and the Rural Business Energy Program. Our agency typically doesn’t work with producers for Ag production, we turn those services over to our sister agencies. But there are two grant programs they can take advantage of.
Is it important that mayors and town managers know about your agency?
It is definitely important for mayors and town managers to know about our program. Within USDA development there are several divisions. One in particular is our Rural Utility Service, whose programs directly benefit towns in rural Virginia. I think it would be safe to say that many rural towns in Virginia have at some point taken advantage of those programs. Either in building hospitals, libraries, renovating courthouses, fire stations. So they are very familiar with that program. Within my division of business, we actually have a grant program that nonprofits can take advantage of. In that particular instance, we are looking for projects that would increase workforce development or assist businesses with starting and purchasing the items that they need.
Is it a pretty simple process to apply for a grant or is important to have grant writers?
Our programs were developed with the intent that the applicant could actually put them together. Most of the Ag programs are competitive programs, which means they’re scored. We are finding that more and more grant writers are putting together these applications just, for the most part, because of the time. Most of the applicants are involved in their other day-to-day operations and to sit down to put together a grant may not be feasible for them, but they can certainly call on us to assist them. Not necessarily in the writing of the application but certainly in understanding what should go on a particular form in a particular section.
Anything else you’d like small towns to know about your services?
USDA rural development is the agency that we like to say can create community from the ground up. We have programs that can help with the infrastructure, the water, the sewer lines. We have the programs that can build the community type facilities that are needed in that town. We have housing programs that can help potential homeowners build or buy to live in that town. Then we have the division that I represent to help with the business development. Back in the day our agency was known as that program that can create sustainable communities, and we still feel that that’s the case today.