Small Business and Entrepreneurship Resource Center
Insights from the Field
Perspectives from Leading Practitioners and Researchers
Interview with John Broussard, Business and Cooperative Programs Director, Rural Development, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Alexandria, LA
Fourth Quarter 2010
Dallas Fed: What have been the biggest successes and challenges that your clients have faced since 2009? What successes and challenges do you expect in 2011?
Broussard: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided additional funding for us to fund small businesses through our Business & Industry Guaranteed Loan Program. This program enabled businesses to refinance their loans with extended terms, which enables them to have better cash flow. A website identifies if a specific project is located within an eligible rural area.
Dallas Fed: What have been the biggest successes and challenges that the USDA Rural Development has faced since 2009? What successes and challenges do you expect for the USDA Rural Development in 2011?
Broussard: Our challenge has been meeting the demand of businesses. They are asking us for help, but compared to the past fiscal year, we do not have the same level of funding available at reduced fees and to make guarantees. We have applications pending, but our budget has not yet been adopted.
The Louisiana State Office of USDA Rural Development completed its most successful year within Business and Cooperative Programs. We provided financial assistance in excess of $115 million to rural small businesses in Louisiana this past fiscal year. This effort created or saved over 1,100 jobs in rural Louisiana alone.
In 2011, we expect more demand for our programs and services. However, it continues to be a challenge to get lenders to be more responsive to our products. To address this issue, our staff will continue to conduct annual lender training meetings across the state.
Dallas Fed: What impact do you anticipate the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 to have on you and your clients?
Broussard: This legislation has not affected the USDA Rural Development. However, we are working with the SBA and are referring clients to their 7a and 504 programs, which have higher funding limits than previous years. We have done cross-training with the SBA to better understand the programs we both offer and to know when it is appropriate to refer clients to each other.
Dallas Fed: What have we not yet discussed that you think is important to bring up, particularly to industry analysts, your constituents and/or policymakers?
Broussard: USDA Rural Development will continue to streamline our efforts to provide financial assistance to the lending community in an effort to strengthen rural entrepreneurship. We will continue to assist lenders provide entrepreneurs with access to capital within eligible rural communities and focus our efforts on other USDA Rural Development programs such as the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). This program has a guaranteed loan component for eligible lenders to provide assistance for the development of renewable energy systems or energy-efficiency improvements to rural small businesses.