President Barack Obama told an audience in rural Iowa that economic recovery must be led by small businesses and entrepreneurs and "isn't going to be driven by Washington."

Obama was opening a forum on the rural economy at Northeast Community College in Peosta on his second of three days travelling by bus through the Midwest.

Tuesday he also announced that the Small Business Administration will double its current rate of investment in rural small businesses to $350 million over the next five years.

The rural jobs initiative is the second under the SBA's Impact Investment Fund that targets "hard-hit, underserved areas," SBA Administrator Karen Mills says on The White House Blog. In July, the SBA announced a public-private partnership that will provide up to $130 million in investment capital to Michigan businesses over the next five years.

Mills adds that any type of business will be eligible, including those in agribusiness, manufacturing, professional services, and tourism.

The administration also announced it will sponsor and host "conferences" to help connect rural start-ups with private equity and capital investors. What's described as "marketing teams" will go out and pitch federal grant money to private investors.

The initiatives will create a "pretty significant" number of jobs, but officials declined to specify an estimate for how many.
"Half of the people who work in America either own or work for a small business, and two out of every three private sector jobs are created by small business," Mills said. "This is intensely true in rural areas. Small businesses of all kinds are thriving in rural areas."

To further bolster small business, the Obama administration Tuesday announced that $360.9 million in applications had been approved for funding under a program designed to encourage new lending to help small businesses create jobs. The funds are part of $1.5 billion allocated for the program under the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010.

The Treasury Department announced applications approved for 11 states and the District of Columbia. The breakdown: Alabama, $31.3 million; Florida, $97.7 million; Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, and the District of Columbia, $13.2 million each; Ohio, $55.1 million; Oregon, $16.5 million; Tennessee, $29.7 million; Texas, $46.6 million, and Virginia, $18 million.

The program's goal is to generate at least $15 billion in lending, $10 in private lending for each dollar in federal funding.