BY KAY SNYDER
Iowa’s rural electric cooperatives’ community support goes far beyond the safe, reliable and affordable power they provide every day. Utility-sponsored Revolving Loan Funds (RLFs) are a key tool providing statewide impact for community infrastructure, business growth, and job creation and retention.
An RLF is a source of money from which loans are made for multiple small business or community development projects. As loans are repaid, the funds are loaned out again. In 1995, the USDA awarded the first grant from the Rural Economic Development Loan & Grant (REDL&G) program to Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative. With this grant, an RLF was created to provide a source of ongoing funding for investment and job creation. Since that first award, all 36 of IADG’s member rural electric cooperatives (RECs), 22 independent telecommunications companies and 11 municipal utilities have received at least one REDL&G award and have created RLFs to continue support of local projects.
One of the advantages of the RLF program is that the loan funds are locally controlled where the development opportunities can best be assessed and met. Iowa RECs have funded, and in many cases co-funded important projects across Iowa. The Iowa Area Development Group (IADG) is pleased to be a partner and provide technical support and administrative assistance with the REDL&G program and statewide RLFs.
Iowa’s rural electric cooperatives are steadfast community partners and actively contribute to the vitality of the communities they serve. Contact your local REC if you are interested in learning more about its RLF activity.
Recent projects supported by RLFs
Nutriom LLC – Panora
Nutriom, LLC recently held a groundbreaking for its new pasteurization facility in Panora. Nutriom is a growing, family-owned company, from Washington state, that invented a technique for drying eggs to keep their fresh flavor, nutrition and functionality. The product is called OvaEasy Egg Crystals. This 9,000-square-foot addition will enable Nutriom to accept and pasteurize eggs more efficiently and safely. The new addition will free up space in the main building for a future third drying lane and a new freeze dryer chamber to support business growth. Guthrie County REC, Farmers Electric Cooperative, Inc. and Central Iowa Power Cooperative were among seven organizations that supported this project with their respective RLFs.
Disaster Relief – Marshalltown
After the destructive July 2018 tornadoes, Consumers Energy, Heart of Iowa Communications Cooperative and Marshall Economic Development (MED) swiftly created a $340,000 fund to provide interest-free microloans to established Marshalltown businesses affected by the tornado. To help with short-term capital needs, IADG worked on structuring a program and securing a special provision from the USDA, enabling them to utilize their RLF funds for the initiative. The program has assisted 21 companies with loans totaling $197,000.
Tarkio Masonic Lodge Building Renovation – Stanton
The Tarkio Masonic Lodge Building, built in 1878 in downtown Stanton, was recently renovated to create an upper story residential living unit with two commercial spaces on the ground level. The project was an effort to expand housing options, create downtown activity, expand business opportunities and become the catalyst spark needed to revitalize Stanton’s downtown. The upper-story apartment now houses a young family, and The Hair Company salon has opened on the main floor. A second main floor space has been rented to a company that is currently located in Woodlands, Texas. Southwest Iowa REC provided RLF support for this project.
818 Forward with Faith – Pella
818 Forward with Faith (FWF) is a non-profit dedicated to building homes where adults with disabilities can lead lives of dignity while their specialized physical, emotional and social needs are met. The first 4,200- square-foot, two-story, four-bedroom home is under construction in Pella. The house will have a large eat-in kitchen, great room, family room, laundry room and storm shelter on each level. Forward with Faith was deliberate in planning the house design to ensure both functionality and a feeling of ownership by residents. FWF was started Jerry and Judy Fynaard, whose son, Caleb, was born with cerebral palsy. After graduating high school, Caleb was involved in a serious car accident and required care beyond what the facility he was living in could provide. These circumstances led the Fynaard’s to create 818 Forward with Faith. Pella Cooperative Electric Association and Southwest Iowa REC provided RLF support for this project.
Trinity Fabricators, Inc. – New Albin
Trinity Fabricators, Inc. – a structural steel fabricator for building construction – received support from RLFs of Allamakee-Clayton Electric Cooperative, Dairyland Power Cooperative and the IADG Energy Bank to increase efficiency through the purchase of a plasma cutting system. The new system allowed Trinity to replace multiple pieces of equipment with an automated fabrication process, which needs only a fraction of the time to cut and prepare the same material manually. Trinity can now process more volume and bigger and more complicated designs. The company is the sole manufacturer of structural steel beams for Kum & Go convenience stores located throughout 11 states and have cut steel for more than 180 Applebee’s restaurants plus a wide variety of other customers.
Suidae Health & Production, PC – Algona
Six veterinarians created Suidae, a swine-exclusive veterinary clinic that is focused on herd health, from evaluation and intervention to disease risk assessment. Suidae began operation in its new headquarters and swine veterinary clinic in July 2018, which is in the former Iowa National Guard Armory in Algona. Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative, Corn Belt Power Cooperative and Midland Power Cooperative supported this project through their RLFs.
Grinnell Regional Medical Center (GRMC) – Grinnell
The Brownell Emergency and Trauma Center at GRMC opened in 2018. This 4,400-square-foot renovation included five exam rooms and two large trauma bays with collapsible walls, replacing the previous single-bay separated by a curtain. This upgrade improved safety and privacy while allowing GRMC to maintain its Level III Area trauma center designation, a vital benefit for Poweshiek County residents. This was T.I.P. REC’s first award through the REDL&G program, and as such, created their RLF.
Kay Snyder is the director of marketing and communications for the Iowa Area Development Group.