By Martin J. Kidston
Touters of the states first loan relending program gathered for a luncheon Thursday to celebrate the programs success and the economical growth it has spawned.
State Representatives and local business owners joined board members of Bear Paw Development and Tony Preite of the U.S. Department of Agricultures Rural Development Agency, to share the success of the Intermediary Relending Program (IRP).
Director of Bear Paw Development Dick King explained the IRP as a federally funded, economic development initiative designed to assist businesses in rural regions, such as Northcentral Montana. Creative Leisure, Havre Flying Services and Fisher Seed in Chinook were all assisted under the relending program, along with 26 other businesses across the Hi-Line which have received help from Bear Paw Developments IRP.
King explained that Bear Paw Development borrows funds from the USDA Rural Development Agency for a 30-year period with an interest rate of one percent. Bear Paw then offers loans to up and coming businesses in the area who pay back the money at a slightly higher rate.
King said Bear Paw Development has received over $2.5 billion from the USDA Rural Development Agency, and in return, Bear Paw has made nearly 23 loans totaling $2.4 billion. The programs success is said to have saved or created 168 jobs in the region while leveraging $2.2 million in new private investments.
This is the fifth anniversary of the launching of this program, King told the audience. We were the first organization to step into the water, get our toes wet and borrow from the USDA. We believe this program has been very successful.
Bear Paw Development began borrowing IRP funds in 1994. Since then, 11 businesses in Blaine County, 12 in Hill County, two in Liberty and four in Chouteau County have received funding under the program.
While the program has proven successful, Director of the USDA Rural Development Agency Tony Preite said his agency could use more money from the government, but said a good relationship has been built.
We partner very well with the state government, Preite said. Now, we have to have maintain our partners out there, in rural Montana.