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New USDA investment project set

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday introduced a $150 million program designed to provide investment capital to help small agriculture-related business in rural areas with cash needed to expand.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the formation of the first Rural Business Investment Co., a for-profit firm licensed by the USDA to invest in businesses that otherwise might not have the capital to increase business opportunities.

The creation of the Rural Business Investment Co. is a new way for USDA to establish a licensing procedure that makes Farm Credit bank money available as investment capital. The company will receive money from Farm Credit banks and set up an investment capital fund. The money will be managed by Advantage Capital Partners, a New Orleans firm with experience in investing in small rural businesses. Examples of the types of businesses that could receive money include biotechnology companies, regional food hubs, or companies making ag-related products seeking to expand into the export market.

Angola sign firm to upgrade, add 20 jobs

A wholesale supplier for retail sign companies will invest more than $1 million in Angola and add up to 20 jobs by 2017, state officials announced Monday night.

Lomont Holdings Co., which does business as Illuminated Image, plans to lease, renovate and equip its current 50,000-square-foot facility in Angola. The company currently has 36 full-time Indiana employees and plans to begin hiring next month.

“We feel comfortable that we will be able to secure high-quality individuals for the positions that will become available in the upcoming months,” Von Lomont, president of Illuminated Image, said in a statement.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered Lomont Holdings up to $50,000 in conditional tax credits and up to $25,000 in training grants based on the company’s job creation plans.

UAW drops appeal of VW union rebuff

The United Auto Workers dropped its appeal of a worker vote against unionizing at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee, a move that the union said could put pressure on Republican politicians to quickly approve incentives the German automaker is seeking to expand its lone U.S. assembly plant.

The prolonged fight over labor issues at the Chattanooga facility appeared headed for a lengthy National Labor Relations Board appeal until the UAW announced an hour before a scheduled hearing that it was ending its challenge. The February vote went against the union 712-626.

Defiance bank scraps agreement for merger

First Defiance Financial Corp., holding company for First Federal Bank of the Midwest, said Monday it has terminated its agreement to merge with First Community Bank of Columbus, Ohio.

The two companies issued a joint statement saying “it has become evident that the time to complete the merger would be significantly longer than originally expected, and the two companies mutually decided that terminating the agreement was in the best interest of all parties.”

As of Dec. 31, First Community had assets of $101.4 million, loans of $65.4 million, deposits of $90.5 million and common equity of $10.6 million.