COSHOCTON, OH--On the eve of Veteran's Day, one of America's most patriotic holidays, the U.S. Department of Agriculture provided a $1,625,000 loan guarantee to help the oldest and largest flag manufacturer in the country, Annin and Co., expand operations and add 50 new jobs to its 170 workforce.

The plant expansion will help meet increased market demand that has resulted from the September 11 terrorist attack.

"America's greatest symbol of freedom, the American flag, is recognizable throughout the world as the beacon of hope, honor and prosperity for millions," said Lou Gallegos, Assistant U.S. Secretary of Agriculture for Administration, at the plant's expansion ribbon-cutting ceremony. "It is a symbol that our soldiers proudly carry today into battle for freedom and justice. We are proud of our flag, and we are proud of the residents of Coshocton for ensuring an abundance of flags to be flown throughout our great country and around the world."

The USDA Business and Industry (B&I) Guaranteed Loan Program helps create jobs and stimulates rural economies by providing financial backing for rural businesses. This program provides guarantees up to 90% of a loan made by a commercial lender, in this case, Bank First National will receive the guarantee on behalf of the borrower.

Annin and Co. opened its doors in 1847. Its Coshocton, OH, plant is one of five manufacturing plants and two distribution centers throughout the country. With its expanded capacity, the company expects to double its flag production. Since the Sept. 11 tragedy the company has increased its production at these plants and is reviewing their capacity at other plants to convert as much production as possible over to US flag manufacturing.

Gallegos added, "As a former Rural Development State Director in my home state of New Mexico, I know what a program like this means to a small community and to small business. This is a shining example of the commitment shown by President Bush and Secretary Veneman to rural America."

USDA works with private sector businesses to bring new employment to rural America. USDA Rural Development serves as the lead federal entity for rural development needs, and administers financial and technical assistance through three agencies: Rural Housing Service, Rural Business-Cooperative Service, and Rural Utilities Service. Further information on USDA Rural Development can be obtained by contacting any USDA Service Center or by visiting USDA's web site at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov.

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