September 2007  Issue No. 25                    REAP HOME PAGE         A publication of the Center for Rural Affairs

Rural Enterprise Reporter

Positioning REAP for Maximum
Impact in the 21st Century


Providing Access to Core Business Development
Services for Rural Entrepreneurs

BY JEFF REYNOLDS, REAP PROGRAM DIRECTOR

The Rural Enterprise Reporter is an annual publication reviewing performance of the Center for Rural Affairs’ Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) over the last 12 months. The past year was an exceptional year for REAP. As detailed in this publication, REAP reached large numbers of rural entrepreneurs and also had a record year in the placement of micro loans.

REAP also continued to grow and expand programming through the Women’s Business Center and the Hispanic Business Center. Other key initiatives included further piloting of the Online Lending System, continued participation with the AEO Women and Company Microenterprise Boost Award program, and playing a part in implementing the first-ever MarketPlace 2007 Small Business Conference held in Kearney, Nebraska.

It is very clear that past, present, and future initiatives are positioning REAP for maximum program impact in the 21st Century!

ACHIEVING MAXIMUM SCALE
The REAP program has long been known as a program that strives to achieve maximum scale in Nebraska on a statewide rural basis. The definition of “scale” is basically the goal of serving large numbers of individuals. Apart from sheer numbers, reaching scale also connotes market penetration. It also involves achieving economies in service delivery, which in turn can lead to greater organizational sustainability and deepened social impact. Scale is a significant leap forward, a transformative change.

Looking at the period from July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2007, REAP provided assistance to over 800 entrepreneurs. REAP placed 53 loans totaling $686,414 and leveraged an additional $1,315,500 from other sources due to our assistance. REAP lending and assistance during this time frame helped to create or retain 303.5 jobs.

Since 1990, the REAP program has provided business development services to over 7,500 micro businesses. Historically, REAP has placed 540 loans totaling $3,843,255 while also leveraging an additional $8,366,155 from other sources due to REAP assistance.

REAP continues working towards achieving maximum scale in rural Nebraska. Past results show steady and consistent growth. REAP activities and initiatives planned for the future clearly show the commitment of working towards the ultimate goal of reaching all entrepreneurs in need of microenterprise development services in rural Nebraska.

GROUNDWORK FOR SUCCESS
Activities and initiatives from this past year will play a key role in REAP’s future overall success. Several examples of these key items are as follows:

Lending Limit Raised – In September 2006, after careful consideration, REAP decided to raise its maximum lending limit from $25,000 to $35,000. This decision was made after many years of successful lending while maintaining a historical default rate of less than 4 percent.

Legislative Bill (LB) 59 was passed by the Nebraska Legislature and signed into law during the 2005 Legislative session. LB 59 redefines the definition of a micro loan as any business loan up to $35,000. The national definition has been $35,000 for several years.

REAP Online Lending System – Launched in the fall of 2005, the REAP Online Lending System has improved REAP’s outreach and ability to work with clients across rural Nebraska. REAP continues to pilot this innovative system and is currently in the process of further enhancing the overall system. The system can be viewed at www.cfra.org/reap and click on “Online Lending System.”

REAP Hispanic Work – REAP piloted phase 3 of the REAP Hispanic Business Center (HBC) this past year. REAP reached over 100 Hispanic entrepreneurs during those 12 months and is preparing to implement the next expansion of this work.

Collaborations – REAP collaborates with many other organizations and individuals in implementing the work of REAP and microenterprise development in general. This past year saw many new collaborations being formed. These new collaborations and ones already in place are making a huge difference in reaching entrepreneurs in need of services.

FUTURE PLANS FOR REAP
As we continue planning for the coming year and beyond, more collaboration and innovations are in the works. We are planning for further improvements with the online lending system and a total revamping of the REAP website with many new exciting features including the possibility of adding online training and counseling opportunities.

REAP Women’s Business Center trainings will again be critical to our progress. We will continue to further implement and expand our REAP Hispanic outreach work. The second annual statewide event for entrepreneurs, MarketPlace: Opening Doors to Success is being planned for February 27, 2008. And most importantly, staff will remain committed to providing critical and timely assistance to entrepreneurs, both start-up and existing businesses across rural Nebraska.

REAP has a long history of being customer driven. Rural entrepreneurs are our customers. REAP will continue to listen to our customers and research, develop, and implement new initiatives that meet their needs. REAP will also continue to collaborate and build strategic partnerships with other service providers to help better serve rural entrepreneurs.

The REAP program is striving to achieving maximum scale in rural Nebraska and continues the process of positioning the program to meet the needs of rural entrepreneurs in the 21st century. REAP is committed to strengthening rural communities through small, self-employed business development. We look forward to making a critical difference for all startup and existing small businesses in rural Nebraska in need of core small business services.

Contact: Jeff Reynolds, REAP Program Director at 402.656.3091 or jefff@alltel.net for more information.

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