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Three rural economic development organizations receive grant funding

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Three rural economic development organizations will receive $203,600 in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The funds were made available through the department’s Rural Economic Business Enterprise Grant program, which funds small rural businesses. The three organizations will split $203,600 in grants. The Jefferson County Local Development Corp. took in the largest share of the funding and will receive $99,000 for equipment aiding the development of Clayton Distilling Co.

When a Times reporter called Michael L. Aubertine, majority owner of Clayton Distilling Co., about the funding, he said he hadn’t realized he would learn about the status of the funding until July. He said the funding would cover about two-thirds of the equipment costs and speed the company’s growth.

“Now we can actually get the project moving along quicker,” Mr. Aubertine said. “It’s definitely a shot in the arm.”

The Lewis County Industrial Development Agency will receive $90,000 to augment the Lewis County Revolving Loan Fund.

The USDA funding will be used to supplement roughly $40,000 in an existing revolving loan fund, according to Eric J. Virkler, Lewis County’s director of economic development and planning.

Lewis County officials recently decided to move the existing fund, which has been administered most recently by Snow Belt Housing Co. Inc., under the auspices of the IDA to establish that agency as a clearinghouse for small business funding assistance, he said.

The county is also mulling an application, on behalf of the IDA, for $200,000 through the Community Development Block Grant program to establish a small business grant program, Mr. Virkler said. With that funding and the existing loan fund, the IDA could offer grant-loan combinations to help small businesses with upgrades and expansion projects, he said.

The St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency will receive $14,600 to support an expansion of High Peaks Winery. Messages left with Matthew W. Whalen, the winery’s owner, on Friday afternoon were not returned.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., supported the funding.

“This federal funding is so important for the north country’s economy,” Sen. Gillibrand said in a statement announcing the grant. “Small businesses are the most powerful economic engines we have.”

Times staff writer Steve Virkler contributed to this report.

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