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Federal Dishing Out Drought Disaster Loans

Press release from the U.S. Small Business Administration (via PRNewswire.com); July 20, 2012:  

ATLANTA, July 20, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The U.S. Small Business Administration announced today that federal economic injury disaster loans are available to small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private non-profit organizations of all sizes located in Henry, Lake, Montgomery, Obion, Robertson, Stewart and Weakley counties in Tennessee as a result of the drought that began on June 19, 2012.

“These counties are eligible because they are contiguous to one or more primary counties in Kentucky. The Small Business Administration recognizes that disasters do not usually stop at county or state lines. For that reason, counties adjacent to primary counties named in the declaration are included,” said Frank Skaggs, director of SBA’s Field Operations Center East in Atlanta.

“When the Secretary of Agriculture issues a disaster declaration to help farmers recover from damages and losses to crops, the Small Business Administration issues a declaration to assist eligible entities affected by the same disaster,” Skaggs added.

Under this declaration, the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program is available to eligible

farm-related and nonfarm-related entities that suffered financial losses as a direct result of this disaster. With the exception of aquaculture enterprises, SBA cannot provide disaster loans to agricultural producers, farmers, or ranchers. Nurseries are eligible to apply for economic injury disaster loans for losses caused by drought conditions.

Loan amounts can be up to $2 million, with interest rates of 3 percent for non-profit organizations and 4 percent for small businesses. Terms can be up to 30 years. The SBA determines eligibility based on the size of the applicant, type of activity and its financial resources. The agency sets loan amounts and terms based on each applicant’s financial condition. These working capital loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that could have been paid had the disaster not occurred. The loans are not intended to replace lost sales or profits.

Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure website at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

Disaster loan information and application forms may also be obtained by calling the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing) or by sending an e-mail to disastercustomerservice@sba.gov. Loan applications can be downloaded from the SBA’s website at www.sba.gov. Completed applications should be mailed to: U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

Completed loan applications must be returned to SBA no later than March 12, 2013.

For more information about the SBA’s Disaster Loan Program, visit our website at www.sba.gov.

Contact: Michael Lampton
Release Number: 12-660 KY 13127
Phone: 404-331-0333

Consumers Still Volunteering to Spend on TN Getaways

Tennessee tourism is something of a bright spot amidst a lot of other gray economic news, the state’s tourism commissioner said this morning.

“It’s been a tough year for everyone, but Tennessee tourism has actually fared very well, especially relative to our competitive states,” Commissioner Susan Whitaker told members of the Senate Environment and Conservation Committee Tuesday.

That’s good news for Tennessee in general, as tourism is the state’s biggest non-farm industry sector.

For the first two quarters of 2009, the most recent estimates available, Tennessee tourism-industry business in total took about a 3 percent dip from 2008, said Whitaker. However, “leisure travel” increased 4 percent, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

Goods and services providers that depend on Tennessee tourism include food service, entertainment and recreation, lodging, retail sales, public transportation, auto rentals and travel planners.

The Travel Association numbers, released last summer, show tourism in Tennessee generated nearly $14.4 billion, a 1.5 percent increase from 2007 to 2008. Payroll income, however, was down 1.4 percent from 2007.

In the Southeastern United States, generally one of the strongest regions for tourism in the country, some states have seen double digit decline in the past couple years, Whitaker said.

Tennessee’s strong performance in the travel and tourism market was mainly driven by domestic travel, which has shown consistent growth over the past few years, according to the Travel Association report.

Nationally, Tennessee ranks now in the top 10 as a vacation destination state, said Whitaker, Tennessee’s Department of Tourist Development director since 2003.

Whitaker indicated she’s optimistic about tourism in Tennessee going forward. “We have such a wonderful, varied product,” she said. The state’s convenient geographical location and diversity of attractions has helped it weather the economic storm, and will likely continue to do so, she said.

“Where some of the state got hit very hard with business travel declines and convention contraction, there were other parts of the state that had their best years in 2008, and even last year,” she said. For example, businesses that promote and cater to river recreation have been doing particularly well, she said.

The agency’s strategy is to “to create programs and infrastructure for (local businesses and tourism promoters) to plug into and give them a leg up on our competitive states.”

“That’s been very effective,” she said, crediting her agency’s efforts for helping Tennessee move into the U.S. tourism Top 10. “At one point we were were 14th, and then 12th and now were are 8th or 10th, depending on the measure you look at,” she said.

The key challenge for the agency in the future is developing “programs that are going to benefit everybody,” she said.

Whitaker said the department’s promotional spot with Dolly Parton and Elvis Presley “went literally around the world.

“We had over 400 TV clips and 260 articles written in six-weeks time, which vaulted our website to the Top 10, which was actually ahead of Florida’s and California’s websites,” she said.

During Gov. Phil Bredesen’s budget hearings in November Whitaker proposed the state spend about $7.6 million on the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development in the coming fiscal year.

“That reflects approximately a $4.9 million reduction in non-recurring funds,” she told Bredesen at the time. “Most of that reduction will occur in the marketing department. That’s where we have the discretionary funds — and we have been able to determine that probably will be eliminating pretty much the TV and print (advertising and PR efforts).”

But the website will remain “fresh and updated” under that fiscal formula, she said.

The department’s newest online promotional effort is called, “That’s My Tennessee Story, What’s Yours.” She said it has “gained the support of people who absolutely love being here,” like country star Kieth Urban and others who are recording spots essentially “for nothing.”

Whitaker said that while it is true visitors to Tennessee do tend to gravitate to the larger metro areas to start, once they get here, “They start finding out about other things they want to do.”

“People don’t just come for a couple days in the big city here,” said Whitaker. “They like to get out on the backroads.”

She said the state’s “Discover Tennessee Trails and Byways” program — “a statewide initiative encompassing all 95 counties along 15 regional trails, and featuring Tennessee’s five National Scenic Byways and highlighting more than 70 significant tourism sites” — will help visitors get out and spend their money in rural Tennessee.

Mark Todd Engler can be reached at markengler@tnreport.com.

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TN Forestry Commission to Meet Jan. 12; Off-road vehicle-use on private property up for discussion

State of Tennessee Press Release:

The Tennessee Forestry Commission will meet Jan. 12, 2010 at 9 a.m. EST at the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry’s East Tennessee Nursery, located at 9063 Hwy. 411 S. in Delano, Tenn.

The commission will hear reports on off-road vehicle use on private forestlands, timber trespass, property access for hunting, tree planting practices on state property, State Forest assessment and strategy plans, the Division of Forestry budget and legislative issues. Following the meeting, commission members will tour the East Tennessee Nursery, which produces genetically superior hardwood and softwood tree seedlings for reforestation projects on public and private lands in Tennessee.

The meeting is open to the public. Individuals interested in addressing the commission should plan to arrive prior to the start of the meeting in order to be placed on the agenda.

The Tennessee Forestry Commission comprises seven members representing the public’s interests as it relates to forest resources in the state. The commission advises the Tennessee Department of Agriculture on forest resource issues and the Division of Forestry. For more information, contact the TDA Division of Forestry at 615-837-5520.

Rural Tennessee Unemployment Continues to Soar

While it’s no secret economic times are tough this year all across the Volunteer State, job seekers living in West Tennessee are having an especially difficult time finding and keeping work, according to the latest government unemployment statistics.

As of the end of October, unemployment rates in counties from the Mississippi River to just west of Nashville hovered in the high teens, in some cases pushing 19 percent, according to recent numbers from the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

With the exception of Shelby, Montgomery and Dickson Counties, the unemployment rate in every county west of Nashville meets or surpasses the statewide rate of 10.5 percent. Tennessee-wide unemployment was 6.9 percent for the same period last year.

“I think that a lot of the hit that we take has been the erosion of the manufacturing base,” said state Sen. Lowe Finney, a Jackson Democrat.

Several plants have closed or announced layoffs in the past year, including Cub Cadet in Brownsville, a lawn mower plant where 480 full time and seasonal workers lost their jobs when the facility closed in July. Haywood County’s unemployment rate now checks in at 17.9 percent.

Tennessee’s unemployment rate is just above the nation’s 10.2 percent rate for October. Since then, the national numbers dropped to 10 percent in November, though state numbers are not yet available.

Lauderdale County’s unemployment rate was 18.9 percent, the highest in the state and a 4.2 percent increase from October 2008.

Henderson County ranks at 17.6 percent and Carroll County at 17.3 percent.

While each western county struggles with unemployment, those home to larger population centers are faring better, although still significantly worse than the state rates from last year. The rate in Shelby County is 10.2 percent and Madison County is 10.5 percent.

That isn’t to say times are flush for job-hunters in regions east of Nashville. Hancock County unemployment hit 18 percent and Scott County landed at 17.8 percent, and most other counties have unemployment rates in low teens or below.

While Finney said he’s encouraged by the recent drop in the national unemployment rate, he says Tennesseans ought not to expect the picture to brighten anytime soon; the state’s employment numbers tend to lag six months behind.

“If other parts of the country experience good news, hopefully that means a few months from now, Tennessee will experience the same thing,” he said.

Senate Republican Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, predicts it’ll take even longer than that before unemployment turns around.

A former chairman for the Council of State Governments’ Economic Development Committee for the Southern Legislative Conference, Norris says the stimulus hasn’t yet kicked in the way state officials expected, which he says means it’ll take still more time to see positive changes.

“I would say it’s probably not likely we’ll be able to see any appreciable improvement until the third quarter of 2010 at the earliest,” he said.