Rural areas to receive millions for small business development

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(Host) The U.S. House has given its approval to legislation that’s expected to pump millions of dollars into small business projects in the most northern and rural parts of Vermont.

Commerce Secretary Kevin Dorn says the proposal will allow local economic development organizations to fund a diverse group of proposals for the next 5 years.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The legislation creates a special commission to review new small business proposals in the northern parts of Vermont, New York, New Hampshire and Maine.

Initially, the commission will have a budget of 40 million dollars a year to fund creative business opportunities across the four states. In 2012, this amount increases to 60 million dollars.

In Vermont, local economic development commissions in the 6 northern most counties will be eligible to participate in the program. This group includes Grand Isle, Franklin, Lamoille, Essex, Orleans and Caledonia counties.

Congressman Peter Welch is a co-sponsor of the legislation:

(Welch) "This bill is going to give us an opportunity to have access to money to invest in infrastructure broadband improving transportation and basically give a real shot in the arm to the local economy by leveraging the local economic development organization’s that are there and giving them some funds to work with."

(Kinzel) Welch says the key to program is the involvement of local economic development groups:

(Welch) "Let’s say the folks in Caledonia County want to focus on some broadband opportunities and that’s what their local economic development commission recommends. Well that would be a possibility. Say the folks up in Franklin County think that some Ag to energy project would be helpful to them, well then that one can get on drawing boards so the merits of the projects are going to make a difference."

(Kinzel) Commerce Secretary Kevin Dorn says the legislation enhances the state’s existing efforts to diversify its employment base.

(Dorn) "And to the extent that we can do that is a very positive thing the growth of many small businesses in many industries is far better strategy than supporting the growth of one business and one industry and that’s been our strategy."

Dorn says the plan also encourages collaborative efforts between Vermont and New Hampshire:

(Dorn) "We’re all small states. We recognize that if we’re going to try to compete for jobs with the North Carolinas, the Californias, the Texas‘s of the world more often than not we’re going to have to work together on that."

(Kinzel) The measure now goes to the U.S. Senate for its consideration.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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