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Originally published: 2013-07-23 18:09:39
Last modified: 2013-07-23 18:10:23

Blue Ridge Electric gets loan for pharmaceutical job creation

by Staff Reports

Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation was recently approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to receive a $1 million economic development loan for Exela Pharma Sciences, a pharmaceutical manufacturing company seeking to expand to save positions and create additional jobs in Caldwell County, an area devastated by loss of furniture manufacturing jobs in recent years.

The approval is the first in a multi-step process, which includes Exela and Blue Ridge Electric conducting due diligence for final approval of the loan.

"We are very dedicated to the critical issue of economic development and are working in multiple ways to support job retention and growth so we're very excited to be approved for these funds that can help Exela and our local community," said Doug Johnson, chief executive officer of Blue Ridge Electric. "We look forward to finalizing all the details and moving forward with this project in the very near future."

Blue Ridge Electric was one of only 26 not-for-profit utilities in 11 states selected for this cycle of funds awarded through the USDA's Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program. REDLG provides zero-interest loans and grants to utilities which in turn lend the funds to local businesses for projects that will create and retain employment in rural areas.

"Exela is very pleased to have been considered for this award," said Dr. Phanesh Koneru, president and chief executive officer of Exela. "We are grateful to the leadership at Blue Ridge Electric, as well as the leadership at Caldwell County and the City of Lenoir for their continuing support. This public-private partnership with the support of the US Government, in this case, the Department of Agriculture, is exemplary and what is needed to jump-start our economy."

Blue Ridge Electric is working with the Caldwell Economic Development Commission to strengthen the economy of an area that has been significantly hurt by job loss in furniture manufacturing. Diversification of jobs is a key emphasis in this effort.

Blue Ridge Electric works with all economic development commissions and other local government, civic and community groups to improve the quality of life for members and communities in its service area. Retaining and creating jobs has long been a key effort for the cooperative and this focus is even stronger in today's current economic challenges.

While this is the first REDLG loan that has been approved by the USDA for Blue Ridge Electric and its service area, numerous local industries have taken advantage of the cooperative's economic development revolving loan funds set aside to help create and retain jobs to improve local qualify of life.