Loop Brewing spurs economic development in McCook

Loop Brewing Company in McCook, Nebraska, is another craft brewery that has spurred economic development in its city.

The company was established in 2011 with 10 employees and now has 30 employees. To help get the business started, Center for Rural Affairs Rural Enterprise Assistance Project specialist Dena Beck provided one-on-one business plan coaching, and our small business lending program was able to help with a financing package to make the business a reality.

Loop Brewing Company is owned and operated by Tyler Ray Loop, Tyler Sue Loop, and Adam Siegfried, who received our Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2015.

The brewpub serves up specialty craft beer, and brick oven pizza in a historical railroad icehouse, nestled next to the railroad tracks that shaped McCook nearly 130 years ago.

Feature photo: Dena Beck, Center for Rural Affairs Rural Enterprise Assistance Project specialist, with Loop Brewing Company owners Tyler Ray Loop and Adam Siegfried in 2015.

Related: Check out this story on two other small town breweries, Steeple Brewing Company and Kinkaider Brewing Company, making a difference in their communities' economies. Read more about Loop Brewing spurs economic development in McCook

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Rural communities tapped by craft breweries

Brewing beer is big business in the U.S. In 2016, this centuries-old practice generated $64 million in annual tax revenue and accounted for nearly 2 percent of Gross Domestic Product. Today, the beer industry employs more than 64,000 individuals nationwide.

These numbers are on the rise, especially when it comes to craft brewers. According to the Brewers Association, a craft brewer is small, independent, and traditional. Breweries that meet this definition have increased in number from 1,596, in 2009, to 5,234, in 2016.

Nowhere is this trend more evident than in rural communities. Take the central Nebraska communities of Hastings and Broken Bow. These rural locales sit 100 miles apart, but share one big commonality: they are both home to up-and-coming breweries.

Kinkaider Brewing Company, based in Broken Bow, was named for the Kinkaid Act of 1904 that permitted settlers to acquire northwest Nebraska land free of charge. The business was started in 2014 by four Nebraskans native to the Sandhills region.

Steeple Brewing Company, in Hastings, opened its doors early this year. Guests will find pews in the taproom and beers that reference life in a small town congregation. The head brewer is a chaplain.

We caught up with Nate Bell (NB), of Kinkaider, and Thomas Kluver (TK), of Steeple, to learn what it takes to succeed as entrepreneurs in this competitive industry.

Q: How have you been received by the local community?

TK: The local community has been awesome. We were concerned about local buy-in during the planning stages, but the Hastings community has embraced us with open arms.

NB: Couldn’t be better. We have a very progressive-minded community full of entrepreneurs. They love that they can say they have a brewery, and that they can call it their brewery. They love seeing it on tap in Omaha and Lincoln when they go out to eat. They love that their friends and family from around the state tell them they saw the beer. A lot of community pride.

Q: Have you encountered any barriers?

TK: It took a fair amount of time to understand what we needed to do on a federal, state, and local level to open a brewery. It would be nice if there was a manual out there that listed all of the steps, but the brewing community was really helpful. I can say opening a brewery and restaurant as two separate businesses in the same space complicated things for us.

NB: Two things would really grow the industry in Nebraska. The first is a reduction in the excise tax, as we are among the highest nationally. The second is streamline regulations to make it easier for us to do our job safely and responsibly for the taxpayer and the consumer. It is a complex industry with continuing complexity added all the time.

Q: What advice would you give to someone wanting to start a scaleable business in a rural community?

TK: There’s a lot of advice out there, but I think persistence is really important. If you have an idea and a plan to turn that idea into reality; that’s great, but you won’t get anywhere if you don’t execute the plan. It’s easy to put things off or get frustrated. For me, it’s been great to have business partners, because we keep each other going.

NB: We draw people from a very large radius because we offer a unique product, handcrafted beer along with quality food. That is what rural businesses have to offer. If you develop a unique business and then knock it out of the park with service, you will draw people from all over. Our parking lot on Saturday is filled with out-of-county folks coming just to visit us.

Steeple and Kinkaider succeed because of a sound business model. They thrive because of their strong connection to the community. It’s a symbiotic relationship that drives economic activity across the region.  

For those of us who enjoy a cold beverage after a long day, it’s truly a win-win-win.

Feature photo: Customers visit Kinkaider Brewing Company in Broken Bow, Nebraska. Small craft breweries are becoming a trend in rural communities and creating tax revenue. | Photo submitted

Inset photo: Patrons check out Steeple Brewing Company in Hastings, Nebraska, on its opening day. The space is called their “Fellowship Hall.” | Photo submitted

Related: Check out this story on Loop Brewing Company in McCook, Nebraska. To help get the business started, our loan specialists provided one-on-one business plan coaching, and our small business lending program was able to help with a financing package to make the business a reality. Read more about Rural communities tapped by craft breweries

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Cultural connection to food has been lost

Becky Keim contributed to this article.

Prior to European colonization efforts, the Santee Sioux people in northeast Nebraska were a “food sovereign” nation – they existed in a closed loop system in which they provided for themselves, by their own efforts, from their own land, and without dependence on outside governments and systems. By producing and preserving their own food, the people ensured they had access to abundant sources of healthy food year round.

This closed loop food system was an integral part of Santee Sioux culture, providing sustenance in addition to existing as an essential component of religious and other ceremonies. Today, however, the Santee Sioux people face a loss of cultural connection to food, as well as  numerous barriers to food access, including unemployment, poverty, and limited food outlets.

According to the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance, the most accepted definition of “food sovereignty” is the “right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.”

Santee community members and the Center for Rural Affairs take a look at the Santee Sioux people’s food efforts in our latest report, “Digging In: Supporting a Healthy, Sustainable Food Future in Santee Sioux Nation.”

For the past several years, Santee residents have been embracing more gardens and local markets for fresh and traditional foods. The report identifies new ways to bring fresh foods into the community overcoming barriers of income and transportation.

By asserting a desire to rebuild a sovereign food system, they can create a healthier community, revitalize traditional foods, create a self-sufficient food system, and develop a more resilient Nation.

Visit www.cfra.org/DiggingInSantee to view the report. Read more about Cultural connection to food has been lost

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Senate’s tax reform bill does not address concerns of rural Americans

The Senate’s tax reform bill is complex, and its impact unclear. That is especially true for rural America, where entrepreneurship dominates the landscape, and federal-state programs provide needed support to low-income and the elderly.

On the whole, the massive increase in the deficit is alarming. A $1.5 trillion increase in the deficit over the next decade will need to be accounted for in roughly $150 million annual increments. Federal budget documents suggest these deficits will be made up through cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and other tangential U.S. Department of Agriculture and farm bill programs.

As consideration is given to the demographic and economic realities of rural America, where populations are aging, incomes are more limited, and economic activity can be stunted by a stagnant farm market, programs like Medicare and farm subsidies are critical safety nets for rural residents and communities.

We support tax reform. We know the tax burden on small businesses and middle-income earners is too high, and the time for change is overdue. But, the Senate bill in its current form does not address these concerns. Instead, it adds to the deficit while handing out tax breaks to the highest earners while demanding sacrifices from everyone else.

We call on the Senate to pass a tax bill that works for the middle class and improves the outlook for all of rural America. Read more about Senate’s tax reform bill does not address concerns of rural Americans

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Small towns: Unique and exciting

Small towns can be places of art and culture showcased in unique and exciting ways. Folks assume that only cities have such opportunities, but our project shows that assumption is not correct.

We looked at community-supported art as one way to bring attention to arts and culture in the small towns of Decatur, Lyons, and Oakland. These towns then worked together to organize and lead the Byway of Art Tour held Sept. 30, showcasing these cultural gems in a thoroughly enjoyable way.

The Byway of Art began in 2014 with an “outdoor living room” experience where couches, coffee tables, lamps, and snacks were placed on each town’s main street. Folks stopped by for a cup of coffee and sat to talk about their town: what they love, the history, and what their community meant to them.

Ideas for public art pieces were developed from those first community conversations, and shared with folks in each town. Decisions were made and projects got underway.

Rural Legends Trolley

Decatur residents wanted to create a storytelling trolley. In the mid- to late 1800s, pictures showed the town had sophisticated transportation with a postcard of a trolley traveling down Broadway (their main street). 

During their outdoor living room conversation, we learned the trolley was actually a myth to attract new people to town. 

The picture of the trolley had been superimposed; no actual trolley ever existed. But, one exists now and continues the legend of the trolley. The venue is used as a place to read, tell stories, display local art, and more.

Lycka Till

Oakland is rich in Swedish history and wanted to honor that. 

Lycka Till, a mobile stage with a backdrop of a Swedish fishing town was designed, built, and dedicated. (Lycka Till is Swedish for “Break a Leg” and the perfect name for a stage for performers.) Opening night drew more than 100 people who were delighted to watch a live, Swedish-style vaudeville show with jokes, music, singing, and even a little bit of dancing. 

The stage is available to the community, and has already been reserved for several events this summer. It will be used for many years to come, showcasing the arts.

Storefront Theater

Lyons chose to honor a movie theater that was built years ago, and has now been renovated into a venue with unique features. 

An old storefront was turned into bleachers. The faux storefront folds out to accommodate the bleachers that roll out onto the sidewalk, and a mobile movie screen is brought onto Main Street. Movies have been held there all spring and summer, complete with free popcorn. The theater has drawn folks from other towns and beyond.

Byway of Art Tour

People were excited to take part in the Byway of Art Tour, and we consider the event to be a success.

We heard stories from participants who had never been to Decatur, for example, and had no idea the village had an art gallery. One was already planning another visit. 

People visiting Lyons were wowed by Cosmic Film Studios and the art show at the Andromeda Gallery. 

The stop in Oakland featured dinner and a bake sale. Folks filled the street as they enjoyed the Swedish vaudeville show on Lycka Till.

We saw community pride grow, faces of people reflecting their enjoyment of each piece of art, and interest to go back to those towns. That’s community development at its finest.

Feature photo: A postcard from the 1800s showed a trolley traveling down Decatur’s main thoroughfare. Through conversation with the residents, we learned the trolley was a myth; the photo was faked. As their community’s project, a trolley was installed in a greenspace on their main street. The venue is used to tell stories, display local art, and more. Here, local author, Mary Connealy, presents to visitors. | Photo by Rhea Landholm

Inset photo: Residents of Oakland are proving small towns really do have it all. This summer, they unveiled Lycka Till, a mobile stage with a backdrop of a Swedish fishing town. Brian Depew, Center Executive Director, and Deb Anderson, Community Lead, officially dedicate the project during the Byway of Art Tour in September. | Photo by Rhea Landholm Read more about Small towns: Unique and exciting

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Staff Spotlight: Rock focuses on water and clean energy in Iowa

Katie Rock recently joined the Center for Rural Affairs, where her focus will be on water and clean energy issues in Iowa. She is based in our Nevada, Iowa, office.

“I’m excited to join the Center’s staff in Iowa. There is a lot at stake for rural communities when it comes to water and clean energy,” said Rock. “How Iowa handles these issues will leave a lasting legacy for families, communities and the land. I have a real passion for making sure rural areas have a voice on these issues and can benefit from new opportunities.”

She serves as commissioner with Polk County Soil and Water Conservation District and on the executive committee of the North Raccoon River Watershed Management Coalition.

Rock brings a broad background in agricultural research to the Center, covering biomass crops, biotechnology, and information technology. She has also done advocacy for young farmers, students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and through Make It Work, an advocacy group focused on working family issues.

Raised on a farm outside Muscatine in eastern Iowa, Rock has a bachelors in plant health from Iowa State University and a masters of science in applied plant science from the University of Minnesota. She is pursuing a masters in public administration at Drake University. She lives in Des Moines with her husband and three sons. Read more about Staff Spotlight: Rock focuses on water and clean energy in Iowa

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Iowa farmers prioritize needs in new farm bill

By Kevin Patrick Allen, Public News Service - Iowa

Iowa plays a large role in the process of creating a farm bill and, with less than one year remaining before the current bill expires, work is underway to draft legislation that will support farmers in the state. 

Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, as well as Rep. Steve King, sit on the agricultural committees that draft the farm bill. 

Anna Johnson, a policy program associate at the Center for Rural Affairs, says initial plans and new ideas are being discussed. The Center already has identified key focus areas that include strong support for conservation. 

"We could be providing incentives for conservation practices like cover crops by offering higher premium subsidies to farmers who practice conservation and have conservation plans in place," she states.

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) are initiatives that the Center for Rural Affairs maintains should be well funded. The programs offer financial and technical assistance to farmers while tying payments to performance. 

The Center is also pushing for a bill that will support beginning farmers and rural development. 

Johnson says it's clear that a level playing field doesn't exist for small farmers competing with much larger counterparts. She stresses that issue can be addressed, in part, by adjusting crop insurance payments and the method used to determine those payments. 

"We're concerned about farm consolidation in the rural communities, so we are proposing that in the next farm bill, Congress cap the crop insurance premium subsidy per farm at $50,000 per operation," she says.

Johnson argues that crop insurance should provide a basic level of support, particularly to small and mid-size farms, rather than disproportionately benefiting farmers with the most acreage. 

The current farm bill will expire Sept. 30, 2018.

The first farm bill was created in 1933 and provided subsidies to farmers during the Great Depression. 

Farm bills are drafted every five years to govern a variety of agriculture programs across the country.

Photo courtesy of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Read more about Iowa farmers prioritize needs in new farm bill

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Rural mental health care must not be overlooked

The challenges that try rural communities in nearly all aspects of health care – greater travel distances, fewer providers, heightened health concerns, lower incomes – also stand in the way of the delivery of behavioral and mental health care services. While there is not a greater prevalence of mental illness among rural residents, a significant disparity exists in access to mental health services and care for rural populations.

In the United States, there are nearly 4,900 areas with mental health professional shortages. Of these, nearly 54 percent are classified as rural.

A mental health professional shortage area is designated as such by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in cooperation with state partners. This designation provides access to federal funds in the form of scholarships and loan repayments or enhanced reimbursements to providers and clinics for services.

Even with these incentives, it would require more than 1,600 additional mental health providers, psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, social workers, or psychiatric nurse practitioners to meet the need in rural shortage areas alone.

Efforts to build and maintain an adequate behavioral and mental health workforce are not immune from the circumstances which confront general rural workforce development and retention initiatives.

As the topic of behavioral and mental health draws the attention of Congress and state legislatures in the aftermaths of violent acts and as a facet of the fight of the opioid epidemic, the existing disparity of behavioral and mental health care in rural America must continue to be addressed, starting with building a workforce to meet rural resident needs. Read more about Rural mental health care must not be overlooked

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Untapped economic opportunity in organic farming

Organic farming in Iowa is on the rise, and proving to be an important economic opportunity for small to mid-size farmers. This growing industry is significant for our state because it gives farmers an important and often untapped avenue to continue farming and make money. In a tough farm economy, strong and viable economic opportunities such as this are a valuable option for farms.

Demand for organic products is growing at such a high rate that consumer need is exceeding domestic supplies. The U.S. is now spending more than $1 billion a year to import organic products. This rise in demand gives Iowa farmers a good opportunity to jump in on the higher price premiums – up to three times as much as conventional products.

Organics can be a boon to rural communities, as well. Rural economies suffer when farms consolidate in small communities. The growing organic market presents a viable opportunity to keep small to mid-size farmers in production.

Many Iowa farmers are already growing and producing organic products. In the past five years, the number of organic producers has increased by 31 percent, and the state ranks sixth nationally in largest number of organic farms. Farmers in Iowa also saw a 43 percent increase in the value of organic commodities produced, from $72 million in 2008 to $103 million in 2014. This $100 million market is mostly from producing organic corn, soybeans, and milk.

Transitioning to farming organically is a long process, however there are options for federal financial assistance. Those interested in the higher prices should consider programs to ease into this great economic opportunity.

Contact me at lacied@cfra.org or 515.215.1294 for more information.

Join us for the 2017 Organic Conference "Securing Tomorrow Today — Organic Leads the Way" on Sunday, Nov. 19, and Monday, Nov. 20, at the University of Iowa, Iowa City. The conference features roundtable discussions and an organic luncheon, as well as information from keynote speaker Jeff Moyer. Workshop tracks include: crop production, livestock production, local foods, policy, and beginning farmers. Click here for more information and to register. Read more about Untapped economic opportunity in organic farming

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Latino Business Center: Latino-owned businesses represent 24 percent of U.S. businesses

Note: This is the fifth and final in a series from our small business program, Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP), highlighting activities from Sept. 1, 2016, to Aug. 31, 2017. Our staff placed 124 loans totaling $2,541,952 in that time period. To apply for a microloan, click hereClick here for the first story on highlights from businesses, here for the second story on staff accomplishments, here for the third story - a report from our executive director, and here for the fourth story on the Women's Business Center.

Latino-owned businesses will number 4.37 million this year, as projected by a Geoscape study.

This represents a growth of 31.6 percent since 2012, more than double the growth rate of all businesses in the U.S. (13.8 percent).

The Latino share of new entrepreneurs represents 24 percent of all businesses, compared to 10 percent a decade ago – a 140 percent increase. Latinos are 1.5 times more likely than the general population to start a business, according to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity.

While men owned more than 56 percent of Latino businesses in 2012, women now drive more of the growth. Between 2007 and 2012, the number of female Latino-owned businesses grew an incredible 87 percent.

Sales from Hispanic-owned businesses contribute $709 billion to the U.S. economy, an increase of 32 percent since 2012, and twice the total in 2007 ($351 billion dollars).

Because of this demand, from September 2016 to August 2017, the Center’s Latino Business Center (LBC) awarded 59 loans to Latino small businesses totaling $1,032,295.

From October 2016 to June 2017, the LBC served 826 people through trainings, roundtables, and technical assistance: 

  • 483 business owners participated in technology classes, e-commerce, Business Plan Basics, Simple Steps to a Well-Run Business, Marketing Trends, and QuickBooks courses.
  • 343 entrepreneurs were counseled during 1,293 sessions.
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Congress: Rural Development deserves a seat at the table

The Center for Rural Affairs was among several national organizations urging Congress to include a directive in appropriation legislation for Fiscal Year 2018. Section 755 of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill directs the Secretary of Agriculture to nominate an individual to fill the role of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Rural Development.

In May, U.S. Agriculture Sec. Sonny Perdue announced a reorganization eliminating the Undersecretary for Rural Development.

“The Center for Rural Affairs has fought on behalf of rural communities for nearly 45 years," said Anna Johnson, policy program associate, in a press release. "We are heartened that Sec. Perdue is making strong efforts during his early days in office to express support for rural communities. However, we are concerned about the path he has chosen. Sec. Purdue has proposed eliminating the position of Undersecretary for Rural Development and moving oversight of Rural Development agencies to the Deputy Secretary, USDA’s second-in-command. If he makes this change, Sec. Perdue will be removing the position of the most significant rural advocate within USDA. Rural America stands to suffer as a result." 

Perdue's announcement followed a request by the Trump Administration to cut the USDA budget by more than 20 percent.

“Rural America deserves a champion who is not distracted by the other demands of managing the diverse responsibilities of USDA," Johnson said. "By retaining the Undersecretary position, USDA will be better positioned to work with rural people and achieve a vision for America that includes thriving rural communities and economic opportunity for all.”

The Fiscal Year 2018 Senate bill includes language directing USDA to retain the Rural Development Mission Area and appoint an Under Secretary for Rural Development. The Senate bill also includes funding for the long-standing position.

On Oct. 31, the letter was sent to The Honorable Rodney Frelinghuysen, Chairman, House Appropriations Committee; The Honorable Nita Lowey, Ranking Member, House Appropriations Committee; The Honorable Thad Cochran, Chairman, Senate Appropriations Committee; The Honorable Patrick Leahy, Ranking Member, Senate Appropriations Committee; The Honorable Robert Aderholt, Chairman, House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee; The Honorable Sanford Bishop Jr., Ranking Member, House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee; The Honorable John Hoeven, Chairman, Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee; and The Honorable Jeff Merkley, Ranking Member, Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.


Dear Chairs and Ranking Members:

As you prepare to finalize appropriations legislation for FY 2018, we write to urge your support for including Section 755 of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill, which directs the Secretary of Agriculture to nominate an individual to fill the role of USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development. We further request that you support the inclusion of $896,000 for the Under Secretary’s office.

In May 2017, USDA announced that it intended to eliminate its Rural Development Under Secretary. USDA’s decision to downgrade rural development and undermine its leadership structure is shortsighted and dangerous. Fortunately, the FY 2018 Senate bill includes language (SEC. 755) directing USDA to retain the Rural Development Mission Area and appoint an Under Secretary for Rural Development. The Senate bill also includes funding for the long-standing position.

Rural Development is an organization of 5,000 people, 400 offices, and 40 programs, with a loan portfolio of $216 billion dollars. In FY 2015 alone, USDA’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service helped rural business owners and entrepreneurs create or save over 52,000 rural jobs; the Rural Utilities Service helped 5.5 million people receive new or improved electric facilities and 2.4 million people receive new or improved water facilities; and the Rural Housing Service provided over 140,000 new home ownership opportunities. Given its size and complexity, USDA Rural Development requires an Under Secretary to ensure that the work of the agencies is coordinated and accountable to tax payers.

Without the political leadership of an Under Secretary, agencies will tend to drift to separate agendas and difficult issues will go unresolved. Moreover, Rural Development deserves a seat at the table when high-level decisions are being made. As part of the USDA subcabinet, a Senate-confirmed Under Secretary can offer that leadership and political legitimacy. We therefore urge you to adopt the Senate language retaining funding for the Office of the Under Secretary for Rural Development and directing the Secretary to appoint an individual to fill that position.

Thank you for your consideration.


Agriculture and Land-based Training Association
Alabama State Association of Cooperatives
American Federation of Government Employees Local 3354
Arkansas Land and Community Development Corporation
Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake Counties Farmers Union - Ohio
California FarmLink
California Institute for Rural Studies
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association
Center For Rural Affairs
Center for Small Farms & Community Food Systems - Oregon State University
Certified Naturally Grown
Community Food and Justice Coalition
Contract Poultry Growers Association of the Virginias
Cottage House - Alabama
Dakota Rural Action
Delta Land & Community
Desert Forge Foundation
Family Farm Defenders
Fair Food Network
Farm Aid
Farms Not Arms
Farm to Table New Mexico
Farming 4 Justice – North Carolina
Farmworker Association of Florida, Inc.
Federation of Southern Cooperatives / Land Assistance Fund
Food for Maine’s Future
Friends of Family Farmers
Friends of the Earth
Hmong National Development Inc.
Housing Assistance Council
Island Grown Initiative
Indian Nations Conservation Alliance
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
Kansas Rural Center
Land Stewardship Project
LiveWell Colorado
Maine Farmland Trust
Mississippi Association of Cooperatives
Missouri Rural Crisis Center
National Association of Development Organizations
National Association of Towns and Townships
National Family Farm Coalition
National Farm to School Network
National Hmong American Farmers
National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council
Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society
Northwest Forest Worker Center
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
Oklahoma Black Historical Research Project, Inc.
Organization for Competitive Markets
Pesticide Action Network
Roots of Change
Rural Advancement Fund of National Sharecroppers, Inc.
Rural Coalition / Coalición Rural
Rural Development Leadership Network
Slow Food USA
Somali Bantu Community of Lewiston Maine
Sustainable Food Center – Texas
Taos Country Economic Development Corporation
Texas/Mexico Boarder Coalition
The Center for Family Farm Development, Inc.
Union of Concerned Scientists
Western Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
Winston Country Self Help Cooperative - Mississippi
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Women's Business Center: Training and Technical Assistance Provided

Note: This is the fourth in a series from our small business program, Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP), highlighting activities from Sept. 1, 2016, to Aug. 31, 2017. Our staff placed 124 loans totaling $2,541,952 in that time period. To apply for a microloan, click hereClick here for the first story on highlights from businesses, here for the second story on staff accomplishments, and here for the third story - a report from our executive director and interim REAP director.

From September 2016 through August 2017, Women’s Business Center specialists and contracted technical assistance providers delivered 4,559 hours of business counseling (including preparation hours) to 653 clients. 

We have provided 179 training opportunities to 1,285 individuals. 69 percent of those trained were women. (Click here and bookmark this page for more training opportunities.)

This is the 16th year of funding for the Women’s Business Center.

In the last year, the Women’s Business Center:

• Administered the InnovateHER Challenge, with the Nebraska District Office of the Small Business Administration. Three businesses, whose products or services positively impact women, competed for prize money. The application of Sonia Rocha-Sanchez and Michael Feloney, F & S Medical Solutions, LLC, was submitted to the national competition with their innovation SimplCath, a female catheterization assistance device.

• Collaborated with local economic development agencies to sponsor Diane Siefkes, a social media consultant, presenting online marketing and Facebook sessions in Hartington, Valentine, Ainsworth, Alma, O’Neill, Hebron, Central City, and Sidney. Approximately 110 businesses, resource providers, and nonprofits attended.

• Piloted “Primed for Growth: A Financial Education Program for Women Entrepreneurs,” an eightsession program.

• Collaborated with local economic development agencies and educational institutions to host three Business Plan Basics sessions in Red Cloud, Auburn, and Walthill. Latino-targeted series were held in Schuyler, Columbus, Grand Island, South Sioux City, and Loup City. Approximately 50 participated, from start-up to existing businesses.

• Continued collaboration with the University of Nebraska Entrepreneurship Clinic. Law students assist business owners in determining the best legal structure for their businesses and assist with filing documents. The students presented at the Women Entrepreneur Conference.

• Partnered with GROW Nebraska to hold the MarkeTECH Conference in Kearney. 

• Delivered QuickBooks training sessions in Lewellen, Scottsbluff, Ainsworth, Norfolk, Walthill, Laurel, Wayne, Hartington, Chadron, and O’Neill using the Mobile Laptop Lab. Approximately 90 businesses have been assisted. The laptops are also used for computer and e-commerce trainings.

• Held four seminars in Lincoln in collaboration with Community Development Resources, focused on Facebook, marketing budgets, LinkedIn, and sale and use taxes.

• Sponsored a monthly Women’s Roundtable in Seward. Local women business owners gather to network, discuss cooperative marketing opportunities, and support each other.

• Held a seminar on Federal Contracting and Certification as a Woman-Owned Small Business in collaboration with the Small Business Administration Omaha District Office. Also collaborated on a business start-up session and a business financing session in Grand Island.

• Held two business ownership seminars in Lincoln and Beatrice.

Photo: The Women’s Business Center co-sponsored the Women Entrepreneurship Conference in Grand Island, alongside the Nebraska District Office of the Small Business Administration. Participants had the opportunity to network and enhance their entrepreneurship skills. A panel of women entrepreneurs shared their experiences, and sessions addressed target market, marketing on a budget, and legal issues related to small businesses. | Photo by Emilee Pease Read more about Women's Business Center: Training and Technical Assistance Provided

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Celebrate local businesses on Nov. 25

Growing up, I would earn a quarter per chore – a quarter each for washing dishes, dusting, sweeping, and more. I pocketed the quarters, hopped on my bike, and rode four blocks to the main thoroughfare in my town of 1,000.

I would peruse toy racks at the pharmacy and hardware store; drool over bulk candy at the grocery store and the flower shop; and peer at notepads in the glass case at the newspaper office. These locally-owned businesses received all of my hard-earned quarters.

At age 8, I didn’t realize I was supporting small businesses or the local economy. I also didn’t think to save my quarters for spending at a big box or department store. I only knew how handy it was to be able to shop in my community.

Main street businesses are an important part of our life in rural America, and Small Business Saturday, on Nov. 25, is the perfect time to celebrate them. Show your support by making purchases, which keep locally-earned dollars in your communities.

In 2015, U.S. small businesses represented 99.7 percent of businesses with paid employees, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. When we shop, eat, and have fun at local establishments, we benefit our neighbors.

During this holiday season, and year round, #ShopSmall. Support your community, your friends, and your way of life. When local businesses succeed, we all win.

Businesses: There is still time to join in Small Business Saturday. Participating in Small Business Saturday is a great way to promote your business and reach new customers. Visit ShopSmall.com/YourDay to find marketing materials, merchandise, tips and insight, and how to get more involved. Read more about Celebrate local businesses on Nov. 25

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