Aztec's High Desert Community Credit Union is the first in New Mexico to use the USDA Rural Development’s Intermediary Relending Program

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FARMINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided $300,000 to Aztec's High Desert Community Credit Union to establish a program that lends money to small businesses in the region.

The funds were made available through the USDA Rural Development’s Intermediary Relending Program, which provides low-interest loans to nonprofits agencies that can then re-lend that money to small businesses, also at low-interest rates.

High Desert Community Credit Union is the first credit union in New Mexico to use the program.

"Northwest New Mexico is in tough economic times, and these funds will make capital available to small businesses at a time when they need it most," said USDA Rural Development State Director Terry Brunner in a press release from the agency.

Carmen Martinez is the director of the Small Business Development Center at San Juan College, which offers resources, business counseling and other assistance to new and existing businesses.

"It’s great news, because one of the challenges for small businesses is that they often don’t have established credit," she said. "This would give them a good opportunity to establish credit and then move on to bigger things."

Martinez said it’s also helpful for small businesses to access financial resources locally.

"If you can meet with someone locally, it’s a lot easier than having to go out of our area, so this is a great resource," she said.

Brian Bone, CEO of High Desert Community Credit Union, said the business, formerly called BAB Credit Union, is pleased to announce the partnership with the USDA.

"High Desert has been committed to making a difference in the community since 1956," he said. "Small business is critical for the economic diversification of the local economy."

Businesses interested in applying for loans through the program can contact High Desert Community Credit Union, 302 S. Ash St. in Aztec, at info@highdesertcu.org, 505-334-3074 and babcreditunion.com.

Leigh Black Irvin is the business editor for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4621.

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