Colleen Callahan, USDA Rural Development Director for Illinois, presented Norris Electric Cooperative with a symbolic check for $102,845 to promote rural economic development in Cumberland County. The funds will be loaned at zero percent interest to business start-up Ag Underground.
Ag Underground is owned by Justin Holsapple, who grew up on a farm in Cumberland County and returned after college with a goal of running his own business. Holsapple has recently taken on a dealership with Channel Seed, branched out into the pesticide and nutritional markets, and started Ag Underground as a way to market these products.
Many rural communities recognize the value of “growing their own” businesses as an alternative to attracting outside companies. Holsapple’s Ag Underground, like many businesses looking to start-up or expand, needed financing. Norris Electric Cooperative and the USDA Rural Economic Development Loan Program (REDL) were able to help.
“Today we have the privilege of recognizing two valuable, local businesses whose presence helps strengthen our rural communities,” said Callahan. “We also have an opportunity to highlight the additional strength that is generated for the future when a cooperative like Norris Electric and an entrepreneur like Justin Holsapple work together.
USDA’s Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) program provides zero-interest loans and grants to utilities that in turn, lend funds to local businesses for projects to create and retain employment in rural areas. These revolving loan funds broaden the REDLG program’s reach and create a multiplier effect for its impact.