Jolinda H. LaClair, state director of USDA Rural Development (R.D.) for Vermont, announced that during Fiscal Year 2007, R.D. invested $62,589,993 in Vermont through housing, community and business loan and grant programs. A strong and vibrant economy is critical to the future of rural America, said LaClair. By connecting R.D.s resources to the needs of individuals and communities, new jobs have been created, homeownership has increased and families and communities have been strengthened. Rural businesses in Vermont received $7.55 million in guaranteed loans from R.D. Union Bank, Chittenden Bank, Vermont Economic Development Authority, Community National Bank, National Bank of Middlebury, and Excel National Bank worked hand in hand with R.D. to provide businesses with the funding they needed to start or expand their already existing businesses. Vermonts agricultural producers also competed successfully for funds from the Value Added Producer Grant program, resulting in four recipients receiving a total of $397,017 for operations, planning and working capital.