>Funds will help tribes conduct study
The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde were among 27 grant awardees announced last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Nationwide, $3.2 million will go toward projects to support job creation opportunities in Native American communities. The funding is provided through USDA Rural Development's Rural Business Enterprise Grant program.
The program helps finance the development of small and emerging rural businesses and employment-related adult education programs in rural areas.
"These grants represent USDA's ongoing commitment to helping strengthen Native American businesses, support sustainable economic development, and create jobs," said USDA Rural Development State Director Vicki Walker.
A $30,000 grant will help the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs conduct a feasibility study and develop a business plan for the commercial processing and freezing of traditional tribal foods, such as salmon, elk, mushrooms and berries.
The project's overall goals are to improve quality and reduce waste of harvested native foods, enhance utilization of natural resources for economic development, increase access to healthy traditional foods, and create 15 new jobs on the Warm Springs Reservation.
In addition, the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde has been selected to receive a $30,000 grant to develop a marketplace where more than 30 tribal artisans may sell local basketry, paintings, traditional clothing, jewelry, sculpture and more.
Funds will offset the cost of business consultation on studio commission sales and developing an independent artisan organization.
In addition, the grant will contribute to marketing activities and creation of a website offering online sales. The physical marketplace will be developed in conjunction with a museum and cultural center space currently under development on the Grand Ronde Reservation.
Along with creating the equivalent of at least three full-time jobs, the project will increase opportunities for local artisans to sell their products and supplement their incomes by as much as 25 percent.
In addition to the awards in Oregon, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians Economic Development Corp. will receive a $78,250 RBEG to help Native American seafood businesses in California and Washington install ice machines allowing for expanded distribution and sales opportunities.
Other grants in the Northwest were made to the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe in Washington and the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Housing Authority in Montana.
Projects were evaluated and selected for funding competitively, based on a number of factors, including the proposed project's economic benefits for the local community and the ability of the grantee to leverage funding from additional sources. A complete list of projects funded through the current announcement is available at http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2012/06/0201.xml&contentidonly=true.
Funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the conditions of the grant agreement.
The announcement followed a recent announcement by the secretary that the department will implement measures that will make it easier for individuals living in Substantially Underserved Trust Areas to obtain USDA funding to improve basic services, including water and sewer systems, broadband and electric infrastructure.
These measures are a crucial step for American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders to build modern utility infrastructure, create jobs and improve their quality of life.
The enhancements are being implemented through a final regulation published in the Federal Register.
Since taking office, President Obama's administration has taken historic steps to improve the lives of rural Americans, put people back to work and build thriving economies in rural communities.
From proposing the American Jobs Act to establishing the first-ever White House Rural Council, the president is committed to a smarter use of existing federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.
The council is working to find areas for better collaboration and improved flexibility in government programs and works closely with local governments, nonprofits and private companies to leverage federal support.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure programs through a national network of state and local offices.
Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $170 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural areas.