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USDA leader tours local businesses

Julie Buntjer/Daily Globe John Padalino (left), acting administrator of USDA Rural Development listens as Nobles County DAC director Bob Schreiber talks about the contracts they have at the Worthington facility.

WORTHINGTON -- John Padalino, acting administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program, was in Worthington earlier this week to tour three businesses that have utilized the USDA-RD's revolving loan program to complete expansions.

In his new role for just a month, Padalino said the visit to the Midwest offered him an opportunity to see how federal dollars awarded to revolving loan fund projects are benefitting rural communities.

"Minnesota and Iowa have some of the more productive revolving loan funds that we have around the country," he said. "This is an opportunity to talk to folks who deliver the program, like bankers and Prairieland (Economic Development Corporation). It's good to hear from people who fill out the applications and deal with the rules and regulations."

Padalino was accompanied on the tour by Prairieland EDC President/CEO Ann Peterson and loan servicing officer Lisa Onken, as well as Minnesota's USDA Rural Development Public Affairs Specialist Adam Czech. After spending an afternoon in Worthington, they planned stops in both South Dakota and Iowa before Padalino returned to Washington, D.C.

While in Worthington, the group visited Ron's Repair, the I-90 Truck Wash (Smith Trucking) and the Nobles County Developmental Achievement Center, all of which acquired funds from Prairieland EDC's revolving loan program.

Both Ron's Repair and Smith Trucking began as home-based businesses. When Ron's Repair moved into a shop in Worthington, its staff grew from five employees to 22 today. Smith Trucking moved to Worthington 12 years after its humble beginnings in Round Lake.

That business had nearly 40 employees when it moved, and now has 125 people on staff.

The Nobles County DAC utilized USDA-RD revolving loan funds to complete a 9,000-square-foot expansion in 2006, and with a recent request to increase its license from 65 clients to 80 clients, director Bob Schreiber said the DAC board is considering the possibility of another expansion.

Schreiber led Padalino through the day training center Tuesday afternoon, explaining the contracts the DAC has with local businesses to perform everything from paper shredding to sorting through recycled plastic bottle pieces to remove any foreign material. DAC clients are contracted to do work for both Bedford Industries and Newport Laboratories, and also have contracts with local businesses to perform housekeeping and office cleaning.

The DAC was built in Worthington in 1980 to assist individuals with developmental disabilities to learn vocational and work skills.

The businesses toured Tuesday were just a few of the success stories of Prairieland EDC, which has made more than 60 loans from its revolving loan program since it was established.

"It's one of our better performing loan programs in the state," said Czech, adding that part of the reason for the tour to southwest Minnesota was to highlight the success of the program.

"(Revolving funds) kind of fly under the radar a little bit," Czech said. "People need to know that they're making an impact out here -- they're creating jobs, helping out businesses and organizations, and infrastructure-type projects. It's not just for bigger businesses or just for smaller businesses, it can go big, small or in between."

"(Businesses) know we're here to help them and the funds are available through the program, should they need that," added Peterson. USDA revolving loan funds are typically used as gap financing, offering growing businesses a lower interest rate and a longer term on the loan.

Prairieland EDC offers USDA revolving loan funds to businesses in its 27-county service territory in south central and southwest Minnesota, and also offers the Small Business Administration 504 program in Minnesota, as well as six counties in South Dakota and three counties in Iowa.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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