NEW – USDA, Co-ops Back Rural Jobs Efforts

A proven energy-efficiency program and a jet engine complex are among the electric cooperative-backed economic development initiatives in line to receive about $13 million in loans and grants from the Agriculture Department.

The money, which will underwrite job creation and retention projects in a dozen states, represents the latest round of funding under the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program.

Under REDLG, the Agriculture Department provides zero-interest loans to co-ops, which they relend to back projects in their communities. Co-ops support the program through prepayment of Rural Utilities Service loans.

“These investments will give businesses access to capital and new markets, allowing them to expand and increase hiring,” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a statement.

A $1 million loan will go to Midwest Energy, Hays, Kan., to support its award-winning How$mart program.

The co-op provides low-interest loans to eligible members for energy-efficiency upgrades such as insulation, air sealing and new heating and cooling systems. Members repay the loans through savings on their monthly bills. Since 2008, participants have saved nearly 1.7 million kilowatt-hours.

“The REDLG loan will allow us to expand the How$mart program to many more of our 91,000 electric and natural gas customers,” said Earnie Lehman, president and general manager.

“This loan reduces costs and saves energy for our customer-owners, and brings work to dozens of plumbing, heating and general contractors in central and western Kansas that perform the How$mart upgrades.”

In Mississippi, Coast Electric Power Association, Kiln, will receive a $300,000 grant and $740,000 loan to support work at the Stennis Space Center.

The Hancock County Development Commission plans to purchase an industrial site and build a fuel farm for a jet engine test facility, which Rolls-Royce will lease.

Additionally, White River Valley Electric Cooperative, Branson, Mo., will receive a $300,000 grant and a $740,000 loan to relend to Ozark Technical College. That will help the college construct a new campus in Hollister, and provide educational and vocational training courses to area residents.

Source:, a publication of the NRECA