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Loan program aims to create East Texas jobs

By Ken Hedler
Jan. 1, 2017 at 4 a.m.

David Cleveland, executive director of the East Texas Council of Governments, right, congratulates Paco Valentin, state director of the USDA Rural Development Program, on Thursday. Valentin is retiring.

KILGORE - Small businesses in a 14-county East Texas region will be eligible to apply for as much as $150,000 in low-interest loans under a federal loan program being offered for the first time.

Paco Valentin, state director of the Rural Development program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, discussed the overall loan package of $500,000 during a gathering Thursday at the East Texas Council of Governments building in Kilgore.

The East Texas Regional Development Co. of ETCOG will administer the program, officially the Intermediary Relending Program.

"It is a pretty big investment," he said.

Valentin, a 34-year veteran of the USDA who was attending his final function as state director, described the program as "strategic partners coming together," adding, "It is about opportunity."

The program is designed to help rural communities, said Kerry Bashaw, regional development company program manager. At least 30 percent of the loans must go to businesses that are owned by minorities, women or others deemed underrepresented.

Twenty percent of new hires must be of people living at the poverty level, capping at $24,300 a year for a family of four.

Bashaw said every $50,000 in loan amount must be used to create a job, for a total of 10. Loans start at $50,000.

The loan payoff period will be three years for working capital, 10 years for machinery and equipment, and 20 years for real estate, he said.

Bashaw said after the ceremony his entity applied for the loan package - also at $500,000 total - for the first time in January 2015. He advised prospective loan applications to contact him via email at Kerry.bashaw@etcog.org.

Participating counties include Gregg, Upshur, Marion, Panola, Harrison, Henderson and Rusk.

For information about the loan and other Rural Development programs, visit rd.usda.gov/tx.

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