ORONO — The United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Office has awarded Four Directions Development Corporation a $92,500 grant to fund the expansion of the organization’s small business services through its Native Entrepreneur Center project. The grant will specifically fund the expansion of small business training and the development and implementation of Native Entrepreneur Centers on two Wabanaki tribal reservations.

The Native Entrepreneur Centers will provide business education services to Native business owners, one on one technical assistance services, and increased access to small business loans. The initial centers will be located at the Passamaquoddy Pleasant Point reservation and the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indian’s reservation, expanding small business growth opportunities in these communities that have been historically underserved in access to transportation, broadband, and communication.

The award will also fund the expansion of Four Directions’ current small business services through hiring a Small Business Manager to provide technical assistance and business education services to the five Wabanaki tribes in Maine.

“We are excited and honored to be a grant recipient from the USDA’s Rural Development Block Grant program which will allow us to support Wabanaki tribes and entrepreneurs to start and grow their business. Receiving this grant will allow us to expand our capabilities in helping Wabanaki tribes and tribal members to start a business and become successful,” said Susan Hammond, FDDC executive director.

Four Directions Development Corporation’s small business program serves to help Native entrepreneurs grow their businesses and apply for and receive business loans. Additionally, the implementation of the Centers will increase access to business education services by providing business planning and financial counseling, which were previously scarce resources in these areas. Increasing the number of Native- owned businesses in Maine also creates the opportunity for higher incomes and more jobs in their communities. For more information, please visit the Four Directions website at https://fourdirectionsmaine.org/.

FDDC is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to improve the social and economic conditions of the Wabanaki tribes in Maine – the Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot – through education and investment in affordable housing, tribal business ventures, and Native entrepreneurship.