On Tuesday, USDA personnel joined local, federal and state officials in Louisiana to get feedback from residents and business leaders on how the Obama administration can work together to improve economic conditions and create jobs. The meeting was part of a series of roundtables that are being held across the country this summer on behalf of the White House Rural Council.

“Continuing to invest in economic development in our rural communities is vital for sustaining and creating jobs in Louisiana,” said Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Doug O’Brien. "The Obama administration is working to ensure that rural Americans have access to basic services and businesses have the tools they need to compete, expand and create jobs.”

The roundtables give government leaders an opportunity to hear directly from business leaders around the country about their ideas on how to grow the economy. They also are intended to educate participants about USDA programs and other federal resources that help rural businesses, residents and communities. Chris Masingill of the Delta Regional Authority co-hosted this event with the South Central Planning Development Commission of Houma, Louisiana. 

USDA Rural Development has helped hundreds of rural Louisiana residents start or expand businesses. For example, Suard Barge received a $3.9 million USDA Rural Development loan to refinance their business that specializes in fabrication and repair of industrial equipment, barges and vessels. The company is headquartered in Houma.

Another example: Rural Development provided the Bastrop Toyota car dealership a $5 million guaranteed loan that will save 23 jobs and create four new ones.  The dealership also received more than $50,000 in Rural Development grants for energy efficient improvements.

Other local projects funded by Rural Development include the Bastrop Farmer's Market, expansions to Morehouse Hospital, and new police cars.

Earlier this year, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the first White House Rural Council, chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The council is designed to build on the administration’s robust economic strategy for rural America and make sure that continued federal investments in rural communities create maximum benefit for rural Americans. These unparalleled rural investments are helping drive job creation and laying the foundation for rural communities that are repopulating.

“USDA Rural Development will continue to increase economic opportunities and make sure that local businesses are aware and taking advantage of the resources and programs this agency offers to help them compete and grow Louisiana,” said Clarence Hawkins, Louisiana USDA Rural Development State Director.

The Obama administration has set goals of modernizing infrastructure by providing broadband access to 10 million Americans, expanding educational opportunities for students in rural areas, and providing affordable health care. In the long term, these unparalleled rural investments will help ensure that America's rural communities are repopulating, self-sustaining and thriving economically.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of more than $155 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 America.