Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the award of $31 million in loans and grants for organizations in 12 states to promote rural economic development.

"These infrastructure investments will help rural residents start or expand businesses," Vilsack said. "The funds can be used for a wide range of needs. They can help businesses increase production and manufacturing capacity, and can even help rural homeowners save money by making their homes more energy efficient."

The funding is being provided through USDA's Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) program. Vilsack today announced $31 million in loans and grants for 38 projects in 12 states.

Through the REDLG program, USDA provides zero-interest loans and grants to utilities that lend funds to local businesses for projects to create and retain employment in rural areas. These revolving loan funds broaden the program's reach and create a multiplier effect for its impact. Eligible applicants are USDA Rural Utilities Service borrowers. Innovative USDA investments through this program are boosting economic development in rural communities all across the country, Vilsack noted.

In North Carolina, the Four County Electric Membership Corp. has been selected to receive a $2 million loan to help Pender County buy equipment for a new seafood manufacturing plant to be located in the county. This project is expected to create 120 full-time jobs at the facility.

The City of Sevierville, Tenn., is receiving a $2 million loan help the KaTom Restaurant Supply Co. renovate a warehouse to create a training center for employees and for customers who buy equipment. This project will add 15 employees to the company's workforce.

North Carolina's Tideland Electric Membership Corp. has been approved for a $540,000 loan and $300,000 grant to help a charter school build a 57,000-square-foot classroom. The beneficiary of the loan is one of the oldest charter schools in the state.

The awards announced today are contingent upon the recipients meeting the terms of the loan or grant agreement. View the complete list of awards.

Since the beginning of the Obama Administration, the REDLG program has helped create or save more than 32,000 rural jobs, provided almost $338 million in economic development assistance, improved manufacturing capability, expanded health care and educational facilities and helped expand or establish almost 1,200 rural businesses and community projects.

In 2013, Rural Development awarded a $1 million loan to the Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative, which used part of the funds to help LaMoure Housing, Inc. construct a building that is home to the grocery store and hardware store in the small, rural town of LaMoure, N.D. (population 889).

President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities.