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October 2014 Featured Article
Rural Business Investment Program Creates New Economic Opportunities in Rural Communities
For years small agriculture related business in rural areas struggled with finding interested private investors. Traditionally their primary source would be guaranteed or direct loans through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). These programs have been less than ideal for businesses in need of capital to increase business. All of this is changing with the recent creation of the Rural Business Investment Program.
The Rural Business Investment Company (RBIC) has been established to receive money from Farm Credit banks and establish an investment capital fund. By establishing the entity RBIC, the USDA has a new way to establish a licensing procedure that can allow Farm Credit bank funds to be available as investment capital.
According to the USDA, the purpose of the Rural Business Investment Program (RBIP) is “to promote economic development and create wealth and job opportunities among individuals living in rural areas and help to meet the equity capital investment needs primarily of smaller enterprises located in such areas. USDA licenses newly formed for-profit entities as Rural Business Investment Companies (RBIC). RBICs then use the equity raised in capitalizing their funds to make venture capital investments mostly in smaller enterprises located primarily in rural areas.”
Presently, this new program is offering $150 million in capital through the participation of eight Farm Credit Banks. Of these eight, Advantage Capital Partners (New Orleans) will manage the money as well as select the companies for investing. The challenge in this endeavor, is the USDA’s ongoing campaign to recruit more newly formed for-profit venture capital companies seeking to be licensed as an RBIC and intending to raise a minimum of $10 million in private equity capital.
Interested Farm Banks are eligible to apply for an RBIC license if the applicant is a newly formed for-profit entity or a newly formed for-profit subsidiary of such an entity. Applicants may structure themselves as limited partnerships, limited liability companies or corporations. Applicants must also have a qualified private fund management team with experience in community development financing or relevant venture capital financing. Third, they will invest in enterprises that will create wealth and job opportunities in rural areas, with an emphasis on smaller enterprises.
Through this partnership with USDA, more private investment can be accessed by businesses working in bio-manufacturing, advanced energy production, local and regional food systems, improved farming technologies and other cutting-edge fields. The key is that these businesses are already established or have received enough capital to get off the ground and are now in position to increase the business but need additional capital to grow without the constraints of additional debt.
Businesses interested in perusing investment from farm banks will meet with an RBIC and present their business plan and provide all necessary documents for review. In determining whether that business qualifies as a “rural business concern” eligible for an investment, that RBIC will look to whether the business “primarily operates in a rural area” (i.e., whether the location with the business’ greatest number of employees in is a rural area).
The USDA has determined that at least 75% of RBIC investments (measured both by dollars invested and number) must be made in rural areas (i.e., outside a standard metropolitan statistical area or within a community with a population of 50,000 or less). Up to 10% of RBIC investments (measured both by number and dollars invested) may be in urban areas (defined by the Census as having a population of 150,000 or more.) More than 50% of RBIC investments (measured both by number and dollars invested) must be in “smaller enterprises” with a maximum net worth of $6 million and net income of $2 million in the prior two years. The balance of RBIC investments can be made in small businesses, which are roughly three times the size of smaller enterprises.
Final selection will be made by the USDA. Those selected will receive a license to operate as an RBIC upon completion of all fund legal documentation and private capital-raising. The RBIC application and eligibility location mapper can be found at the following address rurdev.usda.gov/BCP_RBIP.html.
Published October 2014.