The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in partnership with the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Federal Depository Insurance Corporation (FDIC), is hosting a series of regional economic development workshops on the “Path to Prosperity” in Mississippi, Kentucky, and Georgia to provide small businesses, including farmers and ranchers, with the resources and tools they need to grow.
“These independent businesses, in rural communities, are the cornerstone of American life but many of them lack the same level of access to resources and economic development as their counterparts in larger metro areas,” said Malcom A. Shorter, USDA’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Administration. “USDA is committed to ensuring that small businesses of all types have the knowledge and opportunity to prosper, create jobs and stimulate their local economies.”
According to the USDA, “the partnership and the “Path to Prosperity” workshops align with the Biden-Harris Administration’s Executive Order on “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government” and show the Department’s commitment to increase access to USDA’s products and services and improve service delivery in rural and underserved communities.”
Shorter said “Given USDA’s procurement portfolio of more than $9 billion annually, we can help small businesses access capital through government contracts. Last year, 25.8% of the Department’s contracts went to small, disadvantaged businesses, surpassing our goal of 21.5%, and we plan to exceed that goal again this year.”
Through the “Path to Prosperity” regional economic development series; Federal, state, and local government agencies, along with private sector and non-profit partners, will provide small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs with resources and an opportunity to engage with experts and each other to learn best practices. The no-cost series features experts in how to start a business, how to access capital, and how to do business with the government. They will also include facilitated lender-small business matchmaking sessions. In order to meet participants where they are, the partnership will be conducting a pre-event assessment. Additional resources and experts will be provided based on any further needs.
Presenters will discuss:
- Incentivizing unbanked and under-banked small business owners and individuals to establish a sustainable relationship with an insured financial institution,
- Expanding technical assistance and financial education for small business owners and individuals to improve their bankability,
- Increasing the number of SBA certified lenders to provide access to capital for small, minority, and underserved businesses, and
- Developing contracting relationships with Federal government and private industry partners.
Workshop participants include small businesses, financial institutions, community development financial institutions (CDFIs), trade groups, local, state, and Federal agencies, community leaders, nonprofits, and community-based staff representing organizations.
This spring, three “Path to Prosperity” workshops will be held in Mississippi, Kentucky, and Georgia with the goal of also reaching individuals and businesses in the surrounding region, as follows:
- Jackson, Mississippi (Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma)
- Lexington, Kentucky (Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, West Virginia)
- Albany, Georgia (North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee)
“These regions were chosen because local businesses accessed USDA’s procurement opportunities at a lower rate than others,” said George A. Sears, director of USDA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization.