Rural Nevada businesses face challenges two federal government entities are working to address.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, focused on rural areas, and the Small Business Administration, covering rural as well urban parts of the state, both provide access to capital through loans and grants.
“They are two agencies we cherish and love to work with,” said Rob Hooper, executive director, Northern Nevada Development Authority, introducing two representative from those agencies who spoke at the NNDA luncheon Wednesday in the Carson Nugget.
Phil Cowee, USDA state director for Nevada, said the USDA is targeting several issues to help rural businesses succeed.
“During our tour of the state Internet connectivity always came up. What can the USDA do to improve Internet access? Broadband is increasingly the difference between the haves and the have nots,” said Cowee.
Cowee said the federal budget bill signed in March includes $600 million for the USDA to spend on bringing better Internet access to rural America.
He said lagging technology leads to another issue plaguing rural areas: a dwindling workforce because a younger generation doesn’t want to live where common amenities such as fast Internet access isn’t readily available.
“I was talking to a contractor lamenting on the fact that some of his employees were basically being taken by other companies,” said Cowee. “It doesn’t seem like we’re getting a lot of new workforce.”
He said housing is part of the problem so the USDA is supporting residential development with partners such as Nevada Rural Housing Authority and the Nevada Housing Division.
The SBA covers the whole state, but Joe Amato, SBA district director for Nevada, started with the SBA six months ago and has been traveling the entire state to get more familiar with the rural counties and to get the word out about his agency.
“I told my staff at the start the SBA is irrelevant in Nevada. Only 18 percent of businesses know it,” he said. “This is my 115th public speech in six months. We need to be known more.”