USDA micro-loans give Blackfeet businesses a boost


Small businesses in and around the Blackfeet Reserve now have access to a little more help. This week, for the first time, the US Department of Agriculture supported a Native American community development group to provide “micro-loans” to stimulate the local economy. Paulette Matt runs Real People Herbals out of her house, selling traditional foods, herbal teas, soaps and various healing remedies. She said she didn’t have the money to grow her business on her own.

“With the loan of $ 10,000 that I got, I will be able to get the boxes and boxes. I think it will be worth it. My dream is that in a few years I will be able to hire other people to help me. . It will be a good thing to do to, in a way, stimulate our economy and pass something on to someone younger. “

Small business loans for entrepreneurs without credit or with bad credit are really difficult to obtain.

Gary Racine was shot by Glacier County Banks with his idea of ​​buying R Snack Shop from Cut Bank. Racine wanted to expand the menu and opening hours. After being deemed too risky for a commercial bank loan, he found the financial services of the Native American Community Development Corporation, known as NACDC Financial Services. He spoke at a NACDC event in Browning.

“Overall, I think this program here since I discovered it and started it is a good way for small businesses and Indians to get off to a good start.”

NACDC Financial Services has been providing micro-loans of $ 5,000 or $ 10,000 since 2011. Recently, the group has provided loans to small businesses.

In the past, NACDC Financial Services’ money came from the nonprofit groups Indian Land Tenure Foundation and First Nations Oweesta. NACDC Financial Services borrowed money from these groups and then loaned it to the community.

Now they are getting help from the US Department of Agriculture. The USDA has been doing this sort of thing in Montana since 2010.

Last week, the agency marked its microcredit debut in the Indian country of Montana with a small ceremony at the NACDC office in Browning.

USDA State Director of Rural Development Anthony Preite presented a check for $ 125,000 to NACDC Executive Director Angie Main.

“We’re planning to expand throughout Montana, but we’re taking small steps. And it’s our small step, so thank you, thank you,” Main said.

According to the United States Census Bureau, 33% of Glacier County lives in poverty. That’s more than double the percentage of state and nation.

The median household income in Glacier County is approximately $ 46,000. That’s over $ 10,000 less than the Montana average.

The money in Browning doesn’t stay in Browning, says USDA’s Preite. This micro-loan program aims to solve this problem.

“There is a lot of money, but the vast majority of funds don’t flow once. And they often went to other areas. And of course what we hope is to create a sustainable business that will attract people time and time again and circulate the money for the community and the people in the community to benefit. “

Preite says poverty rates in Glacier Country and the Browning region must be lowered.

“And the best way to fight poverty is to create employment opportunities. And that’s what we are doing here.”

When the dollars that go into a city are spent outside the community, it is difficult to start a small business. And when there aren’t many successful small businesses, there are few options for spending money locally.

Angie Main of NACDC says this circle of financial difficulties is difficult to break.

“It’s been going on since we got put on reservations, you know.”

In addition to providing loans, the association helps with basic financial education. Things like managing credit and creating a budget. They even help Paulette Matt build a website for her new business.

“We are all responsible for each other, so we need to help them as much as possible,” Main says.

Main says NACDC Financial Services has around 115 loans in the community and the organization has never seen a default.

But, she recognizes that breaking a cycle of poverty is not easy.

“Like I said, we’re not going to break the cycle just yet, but if we make a dent, I think we’ve planted the seeds. And I think we’ll get there eventually. Maybe not. in our lifetime but ultimately at least we plant those seeds. “

Main says it’s hard to keep money on a reservation. But it is necessary to give the community ownership of its own economy.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Glacier County is a place where Native Americans make up 63 percent of the population, but own only 26 percent of the business.


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