USDA Rural Development State Director Anthony Preite announced today that the USDA is seeking applications for grants to support rural community economic development.

"It's our Rural Community Development Initiative and this grant basically provides training and technical assistance to rural areas," Loan Specialist Janet Held said. "Some of our eligible applicants would be public, private, nonprofit intermediaries and federally recognized tribes located in Montana."

Held said even though people have to live in a rural area to be eligible for training, the business doesn’t.

"Anything with a population under 50,000 is considered rural," Held said. "Now the applicant is the intermediary and they don't have to be located in a rural area. They could be located in Billings, or Great Falls or wherever. But the people they're serving, these recipients have to be located in a rural area."

Held said training may be focused on home-ownership education, minority business entrepreneurship, and/or strategic community planning or accessing alternative funding sources.

"The financial and technical assistance that can be provided by these grants can help give rural communities the tools they need to increase opportunities for local economic growth and improve their quality of life," Preite said.

Since 2011, Held said the USDA has invested more than $450,000 in Montana through the RCDI program.