A Batavia business park and the Village of Holley have received more than $200,000 in "business enterprise" grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support rural economic development efforts.
USDA's Rural Development division awarded $105,000 to the Genesee Valley Agribusiness Park in Batavia to upgrade sewer pump stations, wells and other infrastructure.
The goal is to enable "a number of businesses to locate here," while creating about 40 jobs, said Doug O'Brien, deputy undersecretary for USDA Rural Development, who came to Batavia to announce the grants.
In particular, the money is aimed at the Genesee Valley Mushroom Co. and the new Greek yogurt joint venture between PepsiCo and Theo Muller GmbH of Germany. O'Brien said the mushroom company is an example of the ventures that are "capturing regional interest in local and regional food systems and infrastructures."
Holley, in Orleans County, will get $99,000 to provide needed infrastructure and renovate a parking lot for a newly opened Save-A-Lot grocery store, enabling the business to thrive. That project, which leverages more than $400,000 in other funds, is expected to create 23 jobs, O'Brien said.
The two are among eight New York State recipients of such grants, which were announced Friday, as O'Brien touted growing potential for rural communities across the country and highlighted the USDA's efforts to help.
"It's an exciting time in rural America," said O'Brien, whose wife is from Western New York. "There are opportunities that rural America hasn't seen for decades."
He noted that agricultural production "has been doing relatively very well the last few years," with record profits and exports, while manufacturing is picking up again, with jobs returning to the United States. "For the first time in 20 years, we have growth in manufacturing jobs," he said.
People are also more interested in "where their food comes from" and "more interested in supporting their local economy," which is "good news for entrepreneurs" since such companies are "small businesses that people can start," O'Brien said.
"We at USDA and across the federal government are working on how we can support these small businesses," he said.
Besides the business grants, USDA Rural Development also works to support build-out of broadband Internet links in rural areas, which "is going to change the landscape," O'Brien said.
"A small business in a rural place that has high-speed Internet can compete with a firm in France or China," he said.
"It's going to make it possible for those who are from rural America and want to stay there to do so."
USDA Rural Development, whose roots date from the 1930s, provides community and economic-development assistance to rural areas, including through grants and loans to support water, telephone, broadband and housing infrastructure.