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Rural Economic Development Resource Directory

This directory provides descriptions and contact information for a number of organizations and websites that can provide resources to national banks and federal savings associations interested in lending, investing, or providing retail financial services in rural communities.

These activities are organized under the following:

Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund
The CDFI Fund stimulates the creation and expansion of CDFIs by providing incentives to traditional banks and thrifts through the Bank Enterprise Act awards program. The CDFI Fund also provides relatively small infusions of capital to institutions that serve distressed communities and low-income individuals. Technical assistance grants are also provided to strengthen the capacity of community development financial institutions. Banks and thrifts can partner with CDFIs to better meet borrower needs.


Community Developments Fact Sheet: USDA Rural Development Business and Industry Guaranteed Loans (September 2018)
Learn about a program that guarantees loans made by eligible lenders to rural businesses

Small Business Administration (SBA)

The SBA administers direct loan and loan guarantee programs for developing and expanding small businesses. Additionally, the SBA administers the Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) designed to offer business development assistance to entrepreneurs. The SBA's website contains information on

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Broadband Loans & Loan Guarantee
This is a Rural Utilities Service Program. The Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee Program (Broadband Program) furnishes loans and loan guarantees to provide funds for the costs of construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide service at the broadband lending speed in eligible rural areas.

National Council of State Agricultural Finance Programs (NCOSAFP)
NCOSAFP provides national representation for states that operate finance programs for farmers, ranchers and the agricultural industry. Organized in November 1984, the NCOSAFP is a non-profit organization that provides a forum for sharing ideas and serves as an information clearinghouse for its member state agencies and the general public they serve. The council is also involved in the promotion and support of rural economic development programs. Through the Aggie Bond program, the participating state coordinates the creation of a bond that allows lenders to earn federally-tax exempt interest income on loans to eligible beginning farmers and ranchers.

USDA Business and Cooperative Programs
Promoting a dynamic business environment in rural America is the goal of Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBS), Business Programs (BP). BP works in partnership with the private sector and community-based organizations to provide financial assistance, through grants and loans, and business planning. BP helps fund projects that create or preserve quality jobs and/or promote a clean rural environment. The financial resources of RBS BP are often leveraged with those of other public and private credit source lenders to meet business and credit needs in underserved areas. Recipients of these programs may include individuals, corporations, partnerships, cooperatives, public bodies, nonprofit corporations, Indian tribes, and private companies.

USDA's Business and Industry Loan Guarantee Program
This program provides business and industry loan guarantees up to 90 percent of a loan made by a commercial lender. Loan proceeds may be used for working capital, machinery and equipment, buildings and real estate, and certain types of debt refinancing. The primary purpose is to create and maintain employment and improve the economic climate in rural communities.

USDA Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program
This program provides funding to organizations that provide training, provide technical assistance, or make small loans to new and existing rural small businesses. The program makes awards quarterly to organizations that give technical assistance and/or small loans to rural small business owners, facilitate access to capital and access to services for rural microenterprises, and develop rural entrepreneurs. Organizations eligible to apply for funding include nonprofits, public institutions of higher education, and tribal governments that are not served by a nonprofit development organization. If you are a banker or thrift looking for a local lending partner, the Department of Agriculture provides funding recipients in 36 states.

Other Resources

The Guide to Financing the Community Supported Farm
The University of Vermont has published guide, which details options and considerations for crafting unconventional financial arrangements that have been used in other sectors of the economy, but might be new to the agricultural sector. The 62-page guide addresses legal, accounting, environmental, and social considerations relevant to pursuing customized financial agreements, and contains examples of farms that have used alternative financing.

Federal Reserve Banks

CRA OneSource - Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City
CRA OneSource is a source for CRA tools, templates, guides, webinars, and other resources that assist banks in implementing their CRA programs.


Community Developments Fact Sheet: Federal Home Loan Bank Programs for Community Development Finance (February 2019)
The fact sheet describes a variety of programs that can finance housing and other rural development projects.

Community Developments Insights: OCC's New Markets Tax Credits - Unlocking Investment Potential (June 2013)
This updated report describes new markets tax credits (NMTC) and how banks and thrifts can use NMTCs to support community and economic development activities.

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Rural Economic Area Partnership (REAP) Zones
USDA sponsored pilot for rural revitalization and community development in REAP Zones. The REAP Initiative was established to address critical issues related to constraints in economic activity and growth, low density settlement patterns, stagnant or declining employment, and isolation that has led to disconnection from markets, suppliers, and centers of information and finance. The REAP Zones were extended through September 2018.

USDA has released a report on the growing importance of food hubs in rural America. The new report is titled "The Role of Food Hubs in Local Food Marketing" (PDF) and finds that the success of food hubs is rapidly expanding, with well over 200 hubs now operating in the United States.

USDA Community Facilities Guaranteed Loan Program (CFGLP)
Through the CFGLP, USDA Rural Development partners with private lenders to finance essential public facilities in rural areas. The guarantee permits a reduction in lender capitalization requirements, may meet community reinvestment act requirements, and may be sold on the secondary market. Borrowers under the CFGLP are public entities such as municipalities, counties, and special-purpose districts, as well as nonprofit and tribal governments.

Other Resources

National Main Street Center
National Main Street Center has been working with communities across the nation since 1980 to revitalize their historic or traditional commercial areas. Based in historic preservation, the Main Street approach was developed, by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, to save historic commercial architecture and the fabric of American communities' built environment, but has become a powerful economic development tool as well.

PolicyLink, The Food Trust, and The Reinvestment Fund
These organization launched the Healthy Food Access Portal that connects community leaders, healthy food retailers, policymakers and advocates to an extensive array of resources, strategies and ideas to improve and increase access to healthy food retail-from grocery stores to corner stores, farmers' markets, and mobile produce trucks-in underserved communities. With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the three organizations created the nation's first comprehensive healthy food access retail portal and learning community designed to promote healthy food retail efforts in regions across the country.

FSA Guaranteed Loan Program (PDF)
The USDA Farm Service Agency offers lenders (banks, thrifts, Farm Credit System institutions, and credit unions) guaranteed loans for both farm ownership and operating purposes. The guarantee can be up to 95 percent of the loss of principal and interest on a loan.

Loans for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers (PDF)
The USDA Farm Service Agency makes and guarantees loans to beginning farmers who are unable to obtain financing from commercial lenders.

Your Guide to FSA Farm Loans (PDF)
This guide was written for people who need assistance starting, expanding, or owning a farm or ranch.

A Compass for Understanding and Using American Community Survey Data: What Users of Data for Rural Areas Need to Know (PDF)
This American Community Survey Guidebook published for ACS Rural Data is intended to introduce the American Community Survey to those who use rural social, economic, and housing data. ACS will provide regularly updated data that can be updated frequently and will replace some of the data previously provided in the decennial Census.

About the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)
ARC, established by an act of Congress in 1965, is a regional economic development agency that represents a partnership of federal, state, and local government. ARC compiles data, creates maps, and conducts research and evaluations on key economic, demographic, and quality of life factors that affect the current and future development prospects of the Appalachian region.

Access to Capital and Credit in Appalachia Financial Crisis and Recession on Commercial Lending and Finance in the Region (PDF) (April 2013)
This National Community Reinvestment Coalition report provides an assessment of the access to capital and credit for small business in the Appalachian region and updates the 2007 report. Research conducted for ARC by NCRC before the 2007-2010 financial crisis expressed cautious optimism that disparities in access to capital and credit between Appalachia and the nation as a whole were diminishing, and that the Region was becoming more like the nation as a whole in terms of access to lending. This study finds that the gap has widened since the recession, particularly in counties designated as "economically distressed" by ARC.

CDFI Coverage Map
This Opportunity Finance Network map provides a tool that may be used by elected officials, bank investors, and other entities to learn more about the community development financial institutions (CDFI) industry's geographic reach and scale. The map includes more than 270,000 nationwide locations where individuals, businesses, facilities, and other CDFI borrowers have benefited from $27.6 billion in financing by 217 entities that have been certified as CDFIs by the U.S. Department of Treasury's CDFI Fund. The map options include multifamily housing. The map also illustrates locations of CDFI funding so that a viewer can determine whether the location is urban or rural.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Lending Rules for Rural or Underserved Counties in 2018
The annual list is used for several different regulations including Appraisals for Higher-Priced Mortgage Loans rule, and Truth in Lending Act (Escrows Rule, Ability to Repay or ATR Rule, ATR Concurrent Rule, and HOEPA Rule).

County Health Rankings & Roadmaps
The program is a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The annual rankings provide a revealing snapshot of how health is influenced by where we live, learn, work and play. The Roadmaps provide guidance and tools to understand the data, and strategies that communities can use to move from education to action.

ERS Rural Classifications
ERS has developed several classifications to measure rurality and assess the economic and social diversity of rural America. The Rural-Urban Continuum Codes, the Urban-Influence Codes, and the Rural-Urban Commuting Areas are used to classify counties, census tracts, and ZIP codes by degree of rurality. The ERS's State Fact Sheets provide information on population, income, education, employment, federal funds, organic agriculture, farm characteristics, farm financial indicators, top commodities, and exports, for each state in the United States.

Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Small City Economic Dynamism Index
The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta has compiled a dataset and created the Small City Economic Dynamism Index to help policymakers and practitioners gain more nuanced perspectives. The index ranks 244 small U.S. cities across 14 indicators of economic dynamism in four categories: demographics, economics, human capital, and infrastructure.

Healthy Food Access Portal
PolicyLink, The Food Trust, and The Reinvestment Fund have launched the Healthy Food Access Portal that connects community leaders, healthy food retailers, policymakers and advocates to an extensive array of resources, strategies and ideas to improve and increase access to healthy food retail—from grocery stores to corner stores, farmers' markets, and mobile produce trucks—in underserved communities. With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the three organizations created the nation's first comprehensive healthy food access retail portal and learning community designed to promote healthy food retail efforts in regions across the country.

List of USDA State Rural Development Offices

National Association of Development Organizations (NADO)
NADO provides training, advocacy, and information for regional development organizations primarily in rural communities. NADO also provides a network for its members to share ideas and innovative projects through its Economic Development Digest, which highlights best practices in rural economic development.

National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Extension, research, and educational programs help individuals and families build financial assets instead of debt. Extension provides research-based information and education via courses, web-based curricula, and other educational outlets for people to acquire knowledge, skills, and motivation to build financial security. The emphasis of programs is on behavioral change-developing a financial plan, managing risk of loss, reducing household debt, and saving and investing to meet life goals.

National Rural Development Partnership (NRDP) (PDF)
NRDP is a national initiative administered by USDA which uses state collaboratives to bring together key rural players in their states to address critical rural community concerns. The NRDP highlights effective strategies for rural community and economic development and also maintains a web clearinghouse on rural development.

Native American Banking Resource Directory
This directory provides descriptions and contact information for a sampling of organizations that can offer resources to banks and thrifts interested in lending, investing, or providing retail financial services in Indian country.

The Role of Food Hubs in Local Food Marketing
USDA Rural Development has released a report on the growing importance of food hubs in rural America. The new report finds that the success of food hubs is rapidly expanding, with well over 200 hubs now operating in the United States.

Rural America's Rental Housing: Federal Strategies to Preserve Access to Affordable Rental Housing in Rural Communities (PDF)
The National Rural Housing Coalition has published this report which documents the successes of USDA's rental housing programs and the challenges facing them now.

Rural Data Portal
The Housing Assistance Council's Rural Data Portal provides information on the social, economic, and housing characteristics of communities in the United States. The portal provides over 350 data indictors for rural communities. Most of the information provided comes from HAC tabulations of the 2010 Census of Population and Housing, the American Community Survey (ACS), and Home Mortgage Disclosure Act Data.

Rural Minnesota Community and Economic Development Resource Guide (PDF)
The guide lists local, statewide, and national agencies engaged in or supporting community and economic development in rural Minnesota. It provides financial institutions and their regulators as well as governmental, non-profit, and for-profit agencies with information supporting rural development in the following areas: Affordable Housing, Community Service, Entrepreneurship, Small Business Development, Small Farm Development, Technical, Leadership, and Planning Assistance, and Workforce Development.

USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) - Rural America at a Glance, 2017 Edition
This publication highlights the most recent indicators of social and economic conditions in rural areas for use in developing policies and programs to assist rural areas.

USDA ERS Food Desert Atlas
USDA, Treasury and HHS have defined a food desert as a census tract with a substantial share of residents who live in low-income areas that have low levels of access to a grocery store or healthy, affordable food retail outlet. Find out if a census tract qualifies as a food desert and other information by visiting this page.

Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC)
RCAC is a nonprofit organization that assists rural communities in 12 western states. They build partnerships, advocate for small communities and develop capacity, especially for the development of public facilities.

USDA Rural Development (RD)
RD provides financial program support for the development of essential public facilities and services such as water and sewer systems, housing, health clinics, emergency service facilities and electric and telephone service. RD supports economic development by guaranteeing loans to businesses through banks, thrifts and community-based lending pools. RD also provides technical assistance to help agriculture and other cooperatives get started and improve membership services. Technical assistance is also provided to communities in order to assist them in achieving community empowerment.

Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR)

The ILSR provides innovative strategies, working models and timely information to support environmentally sound and equitable community development. ILSR maintains the following resources:

National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)

BroadbandUSA program promotes innovation and economic growth by supporting efforts to expand broadband access and meaningful use across America. BroadbandUSA serves communities, industry and nonprofits that want to expand broadband infrastructure and promote digital inclusion. BroadbandUSA's services are driven by the needs and interests of state and local broadband leaders, and focuses on supporting local planning efforts, helping to identify funding, and implementing local broadband programs.

  • BroadbandUSA Brochure (PDF) - describes the services NTIA offers
  • BroadbandUSA Connecting America's Communities (PDF) - This Glossary provides terms and acronyms that are commonly used by the broadband industry.
  • BroadbandUSA: Introduction to Effective Public-Private Partnerships - This publication provides an overview of common broadband partnerships, the factors communities should consider in developing a successful partnership model, and tips and best practices NTIA has observed through its administration of broadband grants to public, private and joint projects across the country.
  • BroadbandUSA Webinars: Practical Broadband Conversations - These are monthly, hour-long webinars presenting practitioners speaking and taking questions on the range of topics addressed by BroadbandUSA, including best practices for improving broadband deployment, digital literacy, digital inclusion and e-government.
  • Technical Assistance - BroadbandUSA provides technical assistance to communities that want to improve their broadband capacity and use broadband more effectively.
  • Resources - BroadbandUSA provides expert, impartial advice and field-proven tools for assessing broadband adoption, planning new infrastructure, and engaging a wide range of partners in broadband projects.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA)

USDA Telecommunications Programs: USDA programs a variety of funding programs for for-profit and nonprofit entities, tribes, municipalities and cooperatives to build and expand broadband networks. USDA loans help to build broadband networks and deliver service to rural households and businesses, provide capital for rural telecommunications companies, broadband providers, wireless companies and fiber-to-the-home providers. Grants are reserved for communities with the highest need. Telecommunications Programs offered include:

U.S. Federal Communications Commission

Broadband in Rural Areas: The FCC assists rural communities in developing strategic plans for broadband deployment that includes creating a comprehensive business proposal to broadband providers.

  • FCC National Broadband Map - The FCC regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. The National Broadband Map provides information on broadband technology, speed, and fixed residential providers by address nationwide.
  • Getting Broadband - This FCC guide provides basis information about broadband or high-speed internet access, the different types, how it works, and how consumers might get broadband to their communities.

Other Resources

Bank Financing for Rural Broadband Initiatives Video
This brief OCC video highlights the important role that banks can play in helping rural communities develop high speed broadband systems and reviews how banks may receive CRA receive consideration for these activities. The video discusses how banks and community leaders developed a cooperatively-owned fiber optic network serving 10 towns and 17 townships across four counties in south central Minnesota.

Closing the Digital Divide - A Framework for Meeting CRA Obligations
This publication prepared by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas provides information for bankers seeking to bring digital opportunity to underserved, rural and tribal communities through access to high-speed broadband.

Community Developments Investments: Expanding Internet Access: Bank Financing for Rural Broadband Initiatives (November 2018)
This edition of Community Developments Investments highlights how national banks and federal savings associations can help rural communities across the nation gain reliable, high-speed internet access through the development of broadband networks.

U.S. Department of Education (DOE)
The DOE has developed a school and broadband availability map and search engine as part of a collaborative effort with the NTIA and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). This education-focused broadband map and database builds upon the NTIA State Broadband Data and Development Program that surveys bi-annually broadband availability and connectivity for the 50 United States, 5 territories, and the District of Columbia.

USDA Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program
The Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program provides funding for rural projects through local utility organizations. USDA provides zero-interest loans to local utilities which they, in turn, pass through to local businesses (ultimate recipients) for projects that will create and retain employment in rural areas. The ultimate recipients repay the lending utility directly. The utility is responsible for repayment to USDA.

Farmer Mac
Farmer Mac is America's secondary market for first mortgage agricultural real estate loans, and was created by Congress to improve the availability of mortgage credit to America's farmers, ranchers and rural homeowners, businesses and communities. Farmer Mac does this primarily by purchasing qualified loans from lenders, thereby replenishing their source of funds to make new loans.

USDA Farm Service Agency
USDA's Farm Service Agency offers direct and guaranteed farm ownership and operating loans to farmers who are temporarily unable to obtain private, commercial credit.

USDA Risk Management Agency Fact Sheet on Whole-Farm Revenue Protection

Council for Affordable and Rural Housing (CARH)
CARH is a national non-profit trade organization. CARH serves as an association for participants in the affordable rural housing profession, including builders, owners, developers, managers, non-profits, housing authorities, syndicators, accountants, architects, attorneys, bankers, and companies that supply goods and services to the industry.

Federal Home Loan Banks Fact Sheet
The Federal Home Loan Banks, through their affordable housing and community development programs, are serving lower income households. This fact sheet describes how the FHLB, in partnership with their communities, have a long history of using their programs to leverage private and public financing for housing and community development.

Housing Assistance Council (HAC)
HAC provides loans at below-market interest rates to rural housing developers as well as technical assistance, research, and training to public and private organizations. HAC publishes Taking Stock: Rural People, Poverty, and Housing in the 21st Century, which includes a chapter on Housing in Rural America and Rural Voices, a newsletter that provides ideas on funding, planning, and building affordable housing and livable rural communities; HAC News, a biweekly newsletter with brief updates on topics related to rural housing and community development; and dozens of research reports and technical manuals, most of which are available on HAC's website.

Low Income Housing Tax Credits
Low Income Housing Tax Credits are used extensively in rural areas to subsidize the cost of creating multifamily rental housing. Under the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program, taxpayers may take a credit against federal income taxes for qualified rental housing development expenditures. The OCC's Tax Credits Resource Directory page includes a Community Developments Fact Sheet on Low Income Housing Tax Credits. The OCC's Community Developments Insights paper, Low-Income Housing Tax Credits: Affordable Housing Investment Opportunities for Banks (March 2014) describes how LIHTCs are used to develop affordable rental housing and how banks and thrifts can benefit from investing in LIHTC-financed projects. It describes the two approaches for investing in LIHTCs - direct investments in individual affordable housing projects and fund investments that have multiple projects managed by third parties. The report outlines risks and regulatory considerations of LIHTC investments and describes how these investments would be considered under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA).

Multi-Family Housing Loan Guarantees (PDF)
The program works with qualified private-sector lenders to provide financing to qualified borrowers to increase the supply of affordable rental housing for low- and moderate-income individuals and families in eligible rural areas and towns.

NeighborWorks® in Rural America Initiative (NRI)
NeighborWorks® America administers the NeighborWorks Rural Initiative which provides funding to community development corporations and local non-profit organizations in over 75 rural communities across the country. These organizations provide homeownership education counseling, develop and renovate single- and multi-family housing, and promote economic development in rural areas across the country.

Opening Doors to Rural Homeownership Opportunities to Expand Homeownership, Build Wealth, and Strengthen Communities, National Rural Housing Coalition (2014)
This publication explains how two USDA programs (Section 502 Direct Loan program and Section 523 Mutual Self-help Housing program) have expanded homeownership opportunities to some of the nation's poorest rural families.

USDA & Federal Home Loan Bank's Mortgage Partnership Finance (MPF) Program
The Mortgage Partnership Finance program of the Federal Home Loan Banks (FHLBs) has a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Program. Under the arrangement, approved FHLBs participating in the MPF program can purchase RHS Section 502 government-guaranteed loans from qualified members, including commercial banks, thrifts, credit unions, and insurance companies. USDA Rural Development Guaranteed Loans are offered to qualifying low- and moderate-income families to purchase or refinance homes in rural areas with a population of less than 10,000 and non-metropolitan communities with populations of 10,000-25,000, the MPF reported. The partnership enables the FHLB of Chicago, which pioneered the MPF program, and the FHLB of Pittsburgh to buy such loans from their members as "a competitive alternative to the secondary mortgage market."

USDA Guaranteed Rural Rental Housing Fact Sheet (PDF)
Rural Rental Housing Guaranteed Loans are loans that are funded by conventional lenders (banks, thrifts, mortgage companies, etc.). USDA protects the lender by limiting the loss in the event of default. Qualified lenders are authorized to originate, underwrite, and close loans to eligible borrowers to construct new multi-family housing projects. Lenders may also make loans for the purchase of an existing property where rehabilitation of at least $15,000 per unit is needed. Rural Housing Services will guarantee the lender's loan up to 90% of total development cost. Eligible borrowers include non-profit corporations, public bodies, and for-profit organizations. The program targets small communities with populations of no more than 20,000, located in non metropolitan areas. This program is intended to fund construction, acquisition, or rehabilitation of rural multifamily housing for low-income occupant.

USDA Guaranteed Rural Rental Housing Program (Sec. 538)
The program provides up to a 90 percent guarantee (for permanent financing or permanent & construction combined) to banks and thrifts that finance affordable rural rental housing. The program is described in the OCC fact sheet on Multifamily Rural Housing Finance Program. Following up on a demonstration program, the Rural Housing Service (RHS), an agency within the Rural Development mission area, is amending its regulations (as of January 3, 2011) to add an additional form of guarantee that is now available under its Guaranteed Rural Rental Housing Program. A single, continuous guarantee during the construction phase for construction advances and the permanent financing phase of the project (for loans that meet certain criteria) will now be provided in addition to the two existing forms of guarantees under the program.

USDA Preservation Information Exchange (PIX)
This is a website for those interested in preserving affordable multifamily rental properties.