Herald-Whig View

Illinois treasurer's office creates opportunities for rural areas

Posted: Feb. 27, 2018 9:45 am

ILLINOIS State Treasurer Michael Frerichs is promoting an initiative that he believes will spur more investment and economic development in rural areas.

Frerichs launched the Invest in Rural Illinois program earlier this month to enable more than 300 banks and credit unions outside the Chicago area to access $500 million in funds overseen by his office to help provide low-interest loans. In turn, those institutions will use the money to grant loans to entrepreneurs, homebuyers and farmers.

"Our rural neighbors know the honor that comes with helping families who want to help themselves," Frerichs said last week during a stop at the Adams County Farm Bureau in Quincy. "Encouraging local banks and lending institutions to participate in these lending programs will help strengthen rural Illinois."

We agree.

The Invest in Rural Illinois initiative consists of three separate programs, each designed to address pressing issues facing many rural communities across the state.

The newest component to the initiative, Community Uplift, directs capital to help fund business growth or expansion, and to create jobs in communities that struggle with high unemployment, poverty and business closings. The goal is to help entrepreneurs grow new or existing businesses to enable them to hire more people and pay higher wages.

The Finally Home program, established in 2002, helps Illinois residents unable to get conventional loans to buy homes or keep their existing homes from going into foreclosure to help stabilize downstate housing markets. Borrowers must meet the program's income and housing limits, and contribute at least 3.5 percent toward the down payment.

The third, Ag Invest, is a linked deposit program created in 1983 that assists farmers by reducing the interest rates on bank loans for buying farm equipment, construction-related expenses, or for traditional crop production and alternative farming activities. Of the available funding, $200 million will be earmarked this year for the program.

"One in 17 people in Illinois work in agriculture," Frerichs said. "They may not be farmers, but they owe their jobs and livelihoods to agriculture."

Clearly, Invest in Rural Illinois is a promising initiative. We encourage financial institutions and people in West-Central Illinois who could benefit from low-interest business or home loans to take advantage of this opportunity.

Together, we can strengthen and grow rural Illinois.