ANCHORAGE, Alaska – U.S. Department of Agriculture-Rural Development Alaska State Director Jim Nordlund today announced that USDA-Rural Development (USDA-RD) has awarded $200K in funding to the University through its Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) program, to improve economic conditions in Alaska by working to establish new cooperatives and providing technical assistance to strengthen existing ones.
USDA-RD’s RCDG program makes such grants available to non-profit corporations and institutions of higher education to improve economic conditions in rural areas. It does this by helping individuals and businesses start, expand or improve the operations of rural cooperatives and other mutually-owned businesses through cooperative development centers. Other eligible grant activities may include conducting feasibility studies and creating business plans.
“Cooperative organizations are important catalysts for economic growth and job creation in rural America,” Nordlund said. “The lack of investment capital is often the key factor impeding many rural areas from economic prosperity. The investments that USDA-RD is making available will help organizations create and establish cooperatives, expand existing ones, drive sales and marketing opportunities and facilitate the development of business opportunities in rural Alaska.”
“The University of Alaska Anchorage Business Enterprise Institute (UAA BEI) is excited to continue this partnership with USDA-Rural Development (USDA-RD). Furthering the development of cooperative forms of business in Alaska not only aligns with the UAA BEI vision of diversifying the economy of Alaska, it also encourages private initiative, achievement of entrepreneurial aspirations, and expansion of self-employment. In addition, it expands the advancement of the core values of cooperative business development across Alaska. There is clearly a growing potential for cooperatives worldwide and thanks to USDA-RD we can continue our efforts to grow cooperative forms of business right here in Alaska, said Andrew Crow, Director, Alaska Cooperative Development Center, UAA Business Enterprise Institute.”
For example, earlier Rural Cooperative Development Grant funding from USDA-RD helped open the doors of the first co-op food store in Alaska. The University of Alaska’s Cooperative Development Center used funding from an RCDG grant to provide technical assistance to the Fairbanks Community Cooperative Market. Since it opened in the spring 2013, the Fairbanks Community Cooperative Market has grown to be one of the largest purchasers of locally produced food in its region. Expanding the sale of local food keeps more money in circulation locally and provides healthy food options which contribute to the overall quality of life in Fairbanks.
Since 2009, USDA-Rural Development has invested nearly $2 billion in 225 rural Alaskan communities. These investments in housing, community facilities, business, energy, water and sewer, telecom and electric have helped to grow rural Alaska’s economy and enhance the quality of life for its residents.