Ripley County receives $40,000 from USDA to promote economic growth

Wanda English Burnett

The idea of partnering with agencies to help promote economic growth in Ripley County has paid off. Ripley County Economic Development Executive Director Gary Norman was pleased to receive a grant from the USDA Rural Business Enterprise, saying, “This will definitely help our county.”

Recently the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development presented a $40,000 USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant to the local economic development corporation.

This particular grant will provide incentives for business expansion, job retention and creations, along with private investment in rural areas of Indiana.

Larry Adams, area director for USDA, from the North Vernon office, praised the efforts of Norman and said “Ripley County is a good fit for our programs.” He said their office looks forward to working with the Ripley County Economic Development Corporation and “appreciates the relationship with Gary.”
The mission of the office in North Vernon is to help small communities such as the ones located within Ripley County. They are already involved in some projects here.

USDA Rural Development State Director Phil Lehmkuhler was in attendance when the check was presented at the Versailles office. He noted, “With these funds, the Ripley County Economic Development Growth Corporation will be able to assist numerous small businesses, who in the past, have had very few options for alternatives to traditional bank financing.”

Lehmkuhler further noted, “USDA Rural Development is committed to improving the quality of life in rural Indiana. When rural Indiana makes progress, all of Indiana benefits.” He noted that the latest grant to Ripley County is one of several that have recently been awarded in Indiana by the USDA Rural Development.

“These grants are in keeping with the mission of USDA Rural Development which is to provide equity and technical assistance to finance and foster growth in homeownership, business development, and critical community and technology infrastructure,” Lehmkuhler noted.

At the event, it was noted that USDA Rural Development has many opportunities for people such as loans for homes, rural rental housing, water and waste facility funding, business and industry guaranteed loans. Vickie McMillan, area specialist for USDA noted that some of the financing for low income housing is at 100% financing. They also have a program that guarantees banks 90% on losses on some loans. She noted that the figures to quality for a four-person household for some loans is as high as $73,600.

USDA has much more to offer, including loans for the elderly, very low income households, and grants for health and safety. “We’ve got something for everybody,” McMillan noted.

Norman said he looks forward to working closely with the USDA Rural Development to promote the county he serves.

For more information on loans you can contact the USDA Rural Development, North Vernon Area Office, located at 2600 Highway 7 North, North Vernon or by calling 812-346-3411, Ext. 4. Additional information is available on rural programs at the USDA’s web site at

Pictured from left are: USDA Rural Development State Director Phil Lehmkuhler, Dean Edwards, USDA director of business programs, Pam Weiler, administrative assistant for Ripley County Economic Development Corporation, Marianne Wiggers, Mary Ann Gay, Larry Armbrecht, Bonnie Jeffries, all members of the local economic development corporation, Gary Norman, Ripley County Executive Director, and Jeanette Mount, field representative for US Congressman Baron Hill. The ceremonial check presentation was held at the Ripley County Economic Development office in Versailles.