The Department of Agriculture (USDA) is soliciting applications, via the attached May 2, 2014, FEDERAL REGISTER notice, for FY 2014 funding under its Rural Business Opportunity Grant Program (RBOG). Of the $2.25 million total, $1.33 million is reserved for projects benefitting federally recognized tribes in rural areas. This is $410,000 more than was available for tribes last year, even though the total program funding has been reduced. Electronic applications are due June 13, 2014, while paper applications must be postmarked or hand-delivered by June 17, 2014.
Among the eligible applicants are federally recognized Indian tribes, tribal organizations and institutions of higher education. Grants are capped at $100,000 each.
The focus of the RBOG program is improving economic conditions in rural areas; funding is for activities including:
• Rural business incubators
• Technology-based economic development
• Feasibility studies and business plans
• Long-term business strategic planning
• Leadership and entrepreneur training
The attached notice discusses conflict of interest with regard to the grantee having a financial or other interest in the outcome of the project, i.e., a grantee providing direct assistance to an organization in which it has an ownership interest. USDA states with regard to tribally-owned businesses:
In cases of tribally-owned businesses, to avoid a conflict of interest, any business assisted by a tribe must be held through a separate entity, such as a tribal corporation. The separate entity may be owned by the tribe and distribute profits to the tribe. However, the entity’s governing board must be independent from the tribal government and be elected or appointed for a specific time period. These board members must not be subject to removal without cause by the tribal government. The entity’s board members must not, now or in the future, make up the majority of members of the tribal council or be members of the tribal council or other governing board of the tribe.
Application forms are available through your Rural Development State Office. Addresses for these offices can be found at: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/StateOfficeAddresses.html
Please let us know if we may provide additional information regarding the Rural Business Opportunity Grant Program.