By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
A meeting is set this month to tell people how they can apply for money for businesses, housing, cooperatives, and public facilities and infrastructure.
The Montana office of U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development will hold the town meeting March 18.
"We are trying to get the word out about the programs we do," said Brenda Sorensen, special projects coordinator for Rural Development. "We would like to get as many people there as we can to get the word of mouth out."
Sorensen said people don't need to preregister and can just show up for the meeting, scheduled for 1 to 5 p.m. in the Triangle Telephone Cooperative hospitality room.
She said Rural Development has money available for business development, marketing value-added agriculture, and developing cooperatives. Other programs have money for building community facilities, providing water and wastewater loans and grants to public entities, and providing single- and multi-family housing loans and grants to private citizens.
"We'll be discussing all of the projects we do," she said.
USDA Rural Development has funded about $600 million for projects in Montana in the last five years, she said.
The meeting will include panels of speakers to answer questions.
Randy Hanson, regional development officer for the Montana Department of Commerce, will be one of the panelists. He said the town meeting will be an excellent opportunity for people to learn how to get financial help.
Hanson said not knowing the person to talk to often prevents people from applying for money.
"It's definitely going to be an opportunity to put a face with a name and a program," he said.
Sorensen said the Rural Development staff will be able to answer any questions people have.
"These are the folks who are in the trenches every day," she said.
The meeting will start with a presentation by Tim Ryan, Montana director of USDA Rural Development.
The first panel will discuss area issues and include Hanson, Bear Paw Development Corp. executive director Paul Tuss, Hill County Commissioner Kathy Bessette and representatives of Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation and the Fort Belknap Indian Community.
The next panel, consisting of local banker Lynda Taplin, and Deborah Chorlton and Laura Horn of Rural Development, will examine housing programs available through Rural Development.
The third panel - Annmarie Robinson of Bear Paw Development, local banker Miles Hamilton, Mitch Copp of Rural Development and Kim Jacobs of USDA Rural Utilities Service - will discuss environmental programs, including water and wastewater facilities and funds for community facilities available through Rural Development.
The last panel will discuss business and cooperative development. The panelists will include Tuss, John Rogers of the U.S. Economic Development Administration, and John Guthmiller and Bill Barr of Rural Development.
Representative of Montana's congressional delegation and local officials will speak, followed by comments by community members and closing comments by Ryan.
Sorensen said USDA Rural Development holds several town meetings about its programs every year. It will hold a town meeting in Conrad the day before the Havre meeting, and several more are being planned in other areas later this year.