Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program

Three Roots Capital is helping promote rural economic growth in the region through microloans and business assistance made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP).

Small businesses are the backbone of rural communities, yet rural entrepreneurs often struggle to find easy access to capital and business training. Through the RMAP program, Three Roots strives to address this gap by providing loans and technical assistance directly to rural entrepreneurs and small businesses across East Tennessee. Even now, the global pandemic presents yet another economic obstacle for these companies to overcome.

“One of our missions is to bring access to capital for people who live in low-to-moderate income areas, which ends up being rural communities some of the time,” said Dennis Corley, Business Development and Community Relationships Manager at Three Roots. “It just makes sense to offer this tool for entrepreneurs since a lot of our target market is rural.”

In order to qualify for RMAP loans and technical assistance, businesses must be located in a rural census tract, according to USDA mapping, and cannot employ more than 10 people. The maximum loan size is $50,000, and an RMAP loan cannot cover more than 75 percent of total project costs.

Entrepreneurs may use these loans for working capital and debt refinancing, but Corley shared that many small businesses they have helped have used the loan for purchasing equipment or supplies. Two notable RMAP loan recipients include Historic Brushy Mountain State Pen and Southeastern Packaging Technologies.

As featured in a previous newsletter story, Three Roots and other partners helped Brushy Mountain’s Operating Partner Pete Waddington turn the former prison in Morgan County into a popular tourist attraction, distillery, restaurant, music venue and gift shop. RMAP loans helped Waddington buy restaurant equipment and inventory at his restaurant and equipment used at the distillery.

At Southeastern Packaging Technologies, an RMAP loan helped Chief Executive Officer Bryan Crosby buy tooling for their injection molding equipment to help grow his small business.

Three Roots finds eligible businesses for RMAP assistance through prospecting and referrals. Corley referred to this challenging process as “threading a needle” because businesses must be mature enough to repay a loan but not so mature that they have too many employees, among other restrictions.

“Rural businesses that meet these qualifications are candidates to work with Three Roots, and we are seeking companies that can benefit from our help,” explained Corley. “We want more people in our network to not only be aware that this tool is available but to send entrepreneurs our way when they think they might be eligible. We want to use our knowledge and resources to provide as much capital and expertise as we can to rural entrepreneurs.”

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