Obama launches major jobs initiative for rural America

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a town hall style meeting in Decorah, Iowa, Aug. 15, 2011, during his three-day bus tour in the Midwest centering on ways to grow the economy.

STEVE CHIOTAKIS:
President Obama is in Iowa today. Republicans seeking his job have been in that state for months now, hammering the president on the issue of jobs. Well today, Mr. Obama responds with an announcement of his own -- a program that will double the money available for rural small businesses. Will it help?

Here's Marketplace's Jennifer Collins.


Jennifer Collins: The Obama administration says it'll commit $350 million to rural small businesses over the next five years. It'll try to connect small businesses with start-up money and expand job search and training programs.

On a conference call yesterday, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said the initiative is needed because:

Tom Vilsack: The unemployment rate historically has been higher in rural areas than in urban and suburban areas.

Administration officials wouldn't say how many jobs they expect this effort to produce. And Lloyd Chapman, president of the American Small Business League, isn't holding his breath.

Lloyd Chapman: Quite frankly, I think it's just sort of statistically insignificant. It might help a little bit, but it's just another publicity stunt.

Census data shows only 16 percent of Americans live in rural areas. Chapman knows what he'd do spur job creation.

Chapman: You need to funnel massive amounts of infrastructure spending to the middle class and small businesses.

But he says said the bulk of those businesses are in urban and suburban areas.

I'm Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.

About the author

Jennifer Collins is a reporter for the Marketplace portfolio of programs. She is based in Los Angeles, where she covers media, retail, the entertainment industry and the West Coast.

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