The USDA has awarded Carolina Small Business Development Fund (CSBDF) $105,000 under its Rural Business Development Grant Program. The money will support CSBDF’s economic development efforts in rural areas across the state.
“Aspiring small business owners in rural areas must overcome unique challenges to succeed,” said Lenwood V. Long, CSBDF President and CEO. “This grant helps us provide critical business services to entrepreneurs in these underserved communities to empower their economic potential.”
The USDA’s Rural Business Development Grant Program now awards a total of $24 million a year nationwide.
In recent decades, shrinking rural populations have led to bank branch closures in many rural areas, resulting in reduced access to financial services. When branch locations are lost, so are the local banking relationships built over years, decades, and generations. With the erosion of this social capital, rural small businesses face greater obstacles to secure funding.
Specifically, the money will enable at least 180 people in rural areas of the eastern part of the state to participate in the North Carolina Rural Entrepreneurship through Action Learning program (NC REAL). Established 30 years ago, NC REAL equips rural entrepreneurs with the business acumen needed to start and grow successful businesses to support local job creation.
Partnering with NC REAL builds on CSBDF’s history of success in this area, which includes assisting over 3,000 aspiring entrepreneurs and current business owners.
As a certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), Carolina Small Business helps bridge this gap for new and existing business owners by providing commercial loans. The organization offers smaller loans with more flexible terms than those typically made available by bank-based lenders.
CSBDF fosters economic development in underserved communities through access to capital, business services and policy research. Since 2010, the non-profit has invested more than $50.5 million through 663 loans to small businesses statewide. Of those, 35% of individual loans went to borrowers from rural areas. In total, the organization has funded more than $19 million in loans to rural entrepreneurs across North Carolina, helping to create or retain 747 jobs.