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mesh conference hits Toronto this week — here’s what’s in store

This week, innovators and digital transformation leaders from across North America will gather at the Symes in Toronto for the mesh conference.

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The mesh conference speakers
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This week, innovators and digital transformation leaders from across North America will gather at the Symes in Toronto for the mesh conference. With a focus on four threads — business, media and technology, society, and marketing — mesh will connect, share, and inspire others to think about changing how we think, organize, operate and behave.

The mesh conference differs from your typical transformation and innovation event in part thanks to two simple rules: no slide decks and canned presentations, and no pay-to-play sessions. The result? Lively sessions where the audience is encouraged to engage with speakers throughout. 

The theme for this edition is “Human-powered, tech-enabled.” Speakers and attendees will explore the pivotal role of technologies in augmenting human capabilities to improve workplace diversity, enhance competitiveness, and even turn back time on human-induced environmental damage through “de-extinction”. 

The full mesh speaker lineup

Over the course of two days, more than 20 speakers will take part in the Toronto event on December 6-7, 2023. The full run-of-show, with speakers and sessions, includes:

mesh conference
Dr. Michael Geist (Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law, University of Ottawa) and Tyler Chisholm (clearmotive marketing)

Canada’s digital policy has gone off the rails. What should the engaged community be doing?

Dr. Michael Geist (Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law, University of Ottawa) will join Tyler Chisholm (clearmotive marketing) to discuss the Meta ban on news, Google’s newly announced search policy around news (backed by $100 million for the industry) and podcasting regulations. Dr. Geist will explain why he has described the law as a “total policy disaster” and an “epic policy blunder” by the government. On the heels of his testimony before the CRTC, he’ll share his insights on what we might expect next and what engaged communities should be doing. Gain a greater understanding of the policy landscape and its impact on how we live and work. 


Marissa McNeelands (Toast) and Amber Mac

Leveraging AI to create a more diverse and inclusive tech industry

Marissa McNeelands (CEO of Toast) will be joined by Amber Mac to discuss how her company works to eliminate gender bias in tech hiring. TOAST, Canada’s first female-focused talent partner, uses a unique AI-driven recruitment tool to help organizations diversify their tech teams and support women in tech careers. This session will explore the role that data and algorithms could play in fostering a more inclusive workforce.


mesh conference
Natalie Black (Mia), Liberty White (CHOZEN MEDIA), Prieeyya Kaur Kesh (Mia), and Anne-Marie Enns (Mia)

AI, Creativity, and Inclusivity: Empowering Tomorrow’s Marketing Leaders

This panel explores how AI and creativity can foster economic empowerment through tech skills training and career growth. The panel will delve into the impact of AI on marketing, the importance of diversity and inclusivity in its design, and the role of continuous education. The session aims to understand economic empowerment through tech skills training, career growth, and a nurturing environment. Features Natalie Black (Mia), Liberty White (CHOZEN MEDIA), Prieeyya Kaur Kesh (Mia), and Anne-Marie Enns (Mia)


mesh conference
Dana O’Born (Council of Canadian Innovators), Tracey Bodnarchuk (Canada Powered by Women) and Stuart MacDonald (Narrative Fund)

Innovating for Canada’s Competitive Edge

Join Dana O’Born (Council of Canadian Innovators), Tracey Bodnarchuk (Canada Powered by Women), and Stuart MacDonald (Narrative Fund) as they discuss the future of Canadian competitiveness through the lens of innovation and transformation. This session will explore the technology and energy industries and why innovation is a team sport. Looking at both growing and transitioning sectors, they will explore how Canada can leverage its strengths and overcome challenges to maintain a competitive edge in the global market and create a sustainable, prosperous future. 


mesh conference
Ben Lamm (CEO of Colossal) and Chris Hogg (mesh conference / DJG / Digital Journal)

Why ‘de-extinction’ is vital to fighting climate change

Join Ben Lamm (CEO of Colossal) and Chris Hogg (DJG) for a riveting discussion on de-extinction and its role in combating climate change. Could the woolly mammoth, the Tasmanian tiger, and the dodo bird be agents of change? Learn about Colossal’s groundbreaking work in reviving extinct species and how this contributes to biodiversity restoration. We will delve into the technology behind halting extinction, preserving animal DNA, and reversing human-induced environmental damage. Explore how de-extinction can restore lost ecosystems, increase biodiversity, and contribute to environmental sustainability. This session promises to spark insightful discussions on the future of biotech and environmental conservation. 


Darnel J. Moore (Distinct.ly) and Elena Yunusov (Human Feedback Foundation)

AI in Marketing: Magic Wand, Double-Edged Sword or Pandora’s Box

Darnel Moore (Distinct.ly) will be joined by Elena Yunusov (Human Feedback Foundation) to explore customer marketing strategies in the context of AI. We will delve into how AI can personalize content at scale and analyze customer behaviour while highlighting the importance of human insight and intervention in marketing. Have we crossed the line when the computer tracks, predicts and influences customer behaviours? Where and when is it best to deploy machine learning and AI in your marketing strategy? At what point in the process is it still best for humans to drive the process? How do we ensure that AI supports the customer journey and that the tools we deploy do not undermine an authentic, transparent relationship? Join us as we aspire to find where the balance is best placed between AI tools and human intention, avoid repeating the mistakes of social media and aim to harness the power of AI responsibly.


mesh conference
Amy Peck (EndeavorXR) and Rika Nakazawa (NTT).

The Almighty AI: Friend or Foe for the Sustainability Agenda?

While headlines are dominated by the thrill and alarm of the rise in Artificial Intelligence applications and utility across industries, they have overshadowed another existential hot topic: Sustainability and ESG. This fireside chat will examine AI’s role in the Sustainability agenda for communities, businesses, and national states, and in what ways leaders across sectors are taking action today for impact tomorrow. We might even imagine new kinds of futures where artificial and collective intelligence collide in this unique chat forum. Features Amy Peck (EndeavorXR) and Rika Nakazawa (NTT).


mesh conference
Lori Nikkel (CEO, Second Harvest), Winston Rosser (VP, Second Harvest) and Mark Evans (Marketing Spark)

Amplifying Community Actions: Case Study of the Second Harvest Food Rescue App

Lori Nikkel (CEO of Second Harvest) and Winston Rosser (VP, Second Harvest) will join Mark Evans (Marketing Spark) to discuss their innovative approach to combating food waste and insecurity, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. They’ll share how their technology platform has facilitated partnerships between food donors and non-profits, enabling them to scale the redistribution of surplus food from coast to coast to coast. Learn about the increased efficiency that allowed them to connect 5,600 donors with 3,400 non-profits–rescuing 24 million pounds of food, averting 79.3 million pounds of greenhouse gases, and saving 13.2 billion litres of water in the last year alone. 


mesh conference
Colleen Pound (Proxure), Mary Jane Dykeman (INQ Law) and David Potter (Vog)

AI & Procurement: The Intersection of Innovation, Risk and Law

Join Colleen Pound (CEO of Proxure), Mary Jane Dykeman (INQ Law) and David Potter (Vog) for an enlightening session on the transformative role of AI and technology in professional services. They will delve into how these tools are levelling the playing field, particularly in procurement and legal services. Colleen, with her expertise in automation and predictive analytics, will shed light on procuring AI solutions. Mary Jane, a seasoned health and data lawyer, will discuss the legal and risk management aspects of AI adoption. This session promises a rich blend of insights from the tech startup and healthcare sectors.


Mathew Ingram (Columbia Journalism Review) and Chris Hogg (mesh)

What the chaos at OpenAI, misinformation, and fake AI journalists mean for our future

Join Mathew Ingram (CJR) and moderator Chris Hogg as they explore the chaos that has been the world of AI this year. From executive shakeups, to fast-vs-slow AI, to misinformation and deepfakes, this session will explore the current state of AI and what it means for our future.


Digital Journal is an official media partner of the mesh conference. Learn more and get tickets to the mesh conference, happening December 6-7 in Toronto, at meshconference.com

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5 tips for brainstorming with ChatGPT

How to avoid inaccuracy and leverage the full creative reign of ChatGPT

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ChatGPT recruited a staggering 100 million users by January 2023. As software with one of the fastest-growing user bases, we imagine even higher numbers this year. 

It’s not hard to see why. 

Amazon sellers use it to optimize product listings that bring in more sales. Programmers use it to write code. Writers use it to get their creative juices flowing. 

And occasionally, a lawyer might use it to prepare a court filing, only to fail miserably when the judge notices numerous fake cases and citations. 

Which brings us to the fact that ChatGPT was never infallible. It’s best used as a brainstorming tool with a skeptical lens on every output. 

Here are five tips for how businesses can avoid inaccuracy and leverage the full creative reign of generative AI when brainstorming.

  1. Use it as a base

Hootsuite’s marketing VP Billy Jones talked about using ChatGPT as a jumping-off point for his marketing strategy. He shares an example of how he used it to create audience personas for his advertising tactics. 

Would he ask ChatGPT to create audience personas for Hootsuite’s products? Nope, that would present too many gaps where the platform could plug in false assumptions. Instead, Jones asks for demographic data on social media managers in the US — a request easy enough for ChatGPT to gather data on. From there he pairs the output with his own research to create audience personas. 

  1. Ask open-ended questions

You don’t need ChatGPT to tell you yes or no — even if you learn something new, that doesn’t really get your creative juices flowing. Consider the difference: 

  • Does history repeat itself? 
  • What are some examples of history repeating itself in politics in the last decade?

Open-ended questions give you much more opportunity to get inspired and ask questions you may not have thought of. 

  1. Edit your questions as you go

ChatGPT has a wealth of data at its virtual fingertips to examine and interpret before spitting out an answer. Meaning you can narrow down the data for a more focused response with multiple prompts that further tweak its answers. 

For example, you might ask ChatGPT about book recommendations for your book club. Once you get an answer, you could narrow it down by adding another requirement, like specific years of release, topic categories, or mentions by reputable reviewers. Adding context to what you’re looking for will give more nuanced answers.

  1. Gain inspiration from past success

Have an idea you’re unsure about? Ask ChatGPT about successes with a particular strategy or within a particular industry. 

The platform can scour through endless news releases, reports, statistics, and content to find you relatable cases all over the world. Adding the word “adapt” into a prompt can help utilize strategies that have worked in the past and apply them to your question. 

As an example, the prompt, “Adapt sales techniques to effectively navigate virtual selling environments,” can generate new solutions by pulling from how old problems were solved. 

  1. Trust, but verify

You wouldn’t publish the drawing board of a brainstorm session. Similarly, don’t take anything ChatGPT says as truth until you verify it with your own research. 

The University of Waterloo notes that blending curiosity and critical thinking with ChatGPT can help to think through ideas and new angles. But, once the brainstorming is done, it’s time to turn to real research for confirmation.

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Inflation of goods vs. gold: How these costs have changed over time

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SD Bullion charted the changes in gold prices compared to U.S. inflation, using data from the World Gold Council and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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Gold has historically played an essential role as a store of value in economies worldwide.

The U.S. dollar used to be backed by gold, meaning money was exchangeable for an amount of the metal. This is known as the gold standard, which the U.S. started to abandon in 1933 during the Great Depression. With the rise of modern monetary policy, other countries followed suit and switched to the fiat currency used now, which is money backed by a government, not a physical asset.

Nowadays, gold is valued as a commodity to invest in, and many people see it as a hedge against high inflation and a safe-haven asset during times of recession or political tensions. Historically, the price tends to increase when inflation becomes high.

Since there is a limited global supply of gold, the metal, known for its luster and corrosion resistance, has earned a reputation as an asset with enduring value. Investors often seek out gold and other tangible commodities to offset the dollar’s weaker buying power when prices of goods and services rise.

While gold has indeed kept its value over time, its link with inflation hasn’t always held up, particularly in recent decades. Gold prices change for many reasons and can be volatile in the short term. Still, many people look to gold as one way to diversify long-term investments.

SD Bullion charted the changes in gold prices compared to U.S. inflation over the last decade, using data from the World Gold Council and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


A dual line chart showing the fluctuations in gold prices compared to steadily increasing U.S. inflation.

SD Bullion

A decade of gold prices

When fiat currencies lose value quickly during inflation, gold has historically become more appealing to investors. However, parts of the past decade followed a somewhat unusual pattern. While inflation increased over those 10 years, the price of gold was in decline in the mid-2010s.

A significant reason behind that drop in gold prices—in contrast with rising inflation—was the 2013 gold crash, when the metal’s price fell 15% in two trading days. Weak sales of gold during the Lunar New Year, rumors of the Central Bank of Cyprus selling gold as part of a bailout, and noticeably high volumes of computerized trading were among the factors that influenced the slump before prices started upward again.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the high-risk atmosphere and low interest rates incentivized investors to switch to gold to safeguard their wealth. The rising demand for gold—partially in reaction to talk of government stimulus, inflation, and economic downturn—made the metal outperform other assets in 2020, the World Gold Council noted. That August, the price of gold hit $2,067.15 per ounce, a record high at the time.

In 2023, gold prices continued to reach new highs amid steep inflation, attributed largely to demand for the metal in emerging markets, according to the World Gold Council. The industry group forecasted that escalating conflict in the Middle East would add to inflation fears, likely raising the price of gold in 2024.

Story editing by Rose Shilling. Copy editing by Tim Bruns.

This story originally appeared on SD Bullion and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

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The county receiving the most Small Business Administration loans in each state

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Flippa identified the county in each state where applicants were approved for the most Small Business Administration loan funds per capita in 2023.
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The Small Business Administration backed loans worth $27.5 billion through its primary lending program in 2023—rising well above pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels as government officials aim to stabilize the economy.

Many small businesses get their start and scale up with SBA loans, which increased lending to Black, Latino, and women entrepreneurs in the past few years in step with efforts to become more equitable.

Flippa found the county within each state where applicants were approved for the most SBA loan funds per capita in fiscal year 2023, which ended in September. The analysis was based on the SBA’s most common loan program, known as 7(a) loans. States are listed in alphabetical order.

SBA’s 7(a) program provides extra security to lenders when they loan money to small businesses that might otherwise be considered too risky to grant. Loans can be for up to $5 million, but in 2023, nearly 7 in 10 loans were for amounts of $350,000 or less. Small businesses can use these funds for real estate acquisitions or improvements, working capital, supplies and equipment, and for other business startup or acquisition purposes.

Barriers do still exist for eligibility, including income, credit history, and location, but SBA loans can be fruitful for founders who don’t qualify for conventional business financing. They can also provide protection against high and volatile interest rates, as SBA-backed loans have maximum interest rates that are predictable and often lower than other loans.

All but two of the #1 ranked counties had populations of less than 500,000—most smaller than 100,000. That’s not surprising, as the Census Bureau classifies about 99% of U.S. counties as small. Still, it signifies that these smaller communities are building successful entrepreneurial environments. In most cases, their small businesses are able to succeed beyond those within the major U.S. population centers—at least in terms of success in gaining SBA funding.

Read on to see whether your county was among those receiving the most SBA loans.


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Alabama: Cleburne County

– SBA loan funds approved: $5.6 million (About $375 per resident)
– Number of loans: 5

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Alaska: Sitka Borough

– SBA loan funds approved: $6.1 million (About $716 per resident)
– Number of loans: 4

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Arizona: La Paz County

– SBA loan funds approved: $3.1 million (About $185 per resident)
– Number of loans: 1

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Arkansas: Lawrence County

– SBA loan funds approved: $8.5 million (About $524 per resident)
– Number of loans: 3

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California: Madera County

– SBA loan funds approved: $29.0 million (About $186 per resident)
– Number of loans: 16

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Colorado: Summit County

– SBA loan funds approved: $20.6 million (About $662 per resident)
– Number of loans: 23

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Connecticut: Hartford County

– SBA loan funds approved: $95.6 million (About $106 per resident)
– Number of loans: 212

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Delaware: New Castle County

– SBA loan funds approved: $49.8 million (About $88 per resident)
– Number of loans: 121

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Florida: Gilchrist County

– SBA loan funds approved: $5.6 million (About $317 per resident)
– Number of loans: 2

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Georgia: McIntosh County

– SBA loan funds approved: $10.0 million (About $888 per resident)
– Number of loans: 3

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Hawaii: Kauai County

– SBA loan funds approved: $4.1 million (About $56 per resident)
– Number of loans: 8

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Idaho: Shoshone County

– SBA loan funds approved: $4.8 million (About $365 per resident)
– Number of loans: 4

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Illinois: Logan County

– SBA loan funds approved: $8.2 million (About $291 per resident)
– Number of loans: 2

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Indiana: Bartholomew County

– SBA loan funds approved: $16.4 million (About $201 per resident)
– Number of loans: 10

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Iowa: Chickasaw County

– SBA loan funds approved: $2.5 million (About $207 per resident)
– Number of loans: 6

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Kansas: Gove County

– SBA loan funds approved: $2.0 million (About $721 per resident)
– Number of loans: 1

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Kentucky: Owen County

– SBA loan funds approved: $5.1 million (About $456 per resident)
– Number of loans: 2

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Louisiana: Claiborne Parish

– SBA loan funds approved: $6.0 million (About $412 per resident)
– Number of loans: 5

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Maine: Knox County

– SBA loan funds approved: $5.3 million (About $132 per resident)
– Number of loans: 19

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Maryland: Allegany County

– SBA loan funds approved: $6.5 million (About $95 per resident)
– Number of loans: 9

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Massachusetts: Nantucket County

– SBA loan funds approved: $3.3 million (About $240 per resident)
– Number of loans: 8

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Michigan: Keweenaw County

– SBA loan funds approved: $4.3 million (About $2,101 per resident)
– Number of loans: 5

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Minnesota: Marshall County

– SBA loan funds approved: $5.1 million (About $559 per resident)
– Number of loans: 4

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Mississippi: Smith County

– SBA loan funds approved: $7.3 million (About $506 per resident)
– Number of loans: 14

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Missouri: Pettis County

– SBA loan funds approved: $17.4 million (About $406 per resident)
– Number of loans: 9

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Montana: Sweet Grass County

– SBA loan funds approved: $4.8 million (About $1,312 per resident)
– Number of loans: 1

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Nebraska: Nuckolls County

– SBA loan funds approved: $2.2 million (About $521 per resident)
– Number of loans: 1

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Nevada: Carson City

– SBA loan funds approved: $13.3 million (About $229 per resident)
– Number of loans: 15

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New Hampshire: Rockingham County

– SBA loan funds approved: $35.3 million (About $113 per resident)
– Number of loans: 117

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New Jersey: Cape May County

– SBA loan funds approved: $26.7 million (About $280 per resident)
– Number of loans: 27

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New Mexico: Torrance County

– SBA loan funds approved: $4.2 million (About $280 per resident)
– Number of loans: 1

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New York: Essex County

– SBA loan funds approved: $11.5 million (About $306 per resident)
– Number of loans: 8

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North Carolina: Dare County

– SBA loan funds approved: $13.3 million (About $362 per resident)
– Number of loans: 8

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North Dakota: Oliver County

– SBA loan funds approved: $384,000 (About $208 per resident)
– Number of loans: 1

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Ohio: Putnam County

– SBA loan funds approved: $7.4 million (About $214 per resident)
– Number of loans: 10

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Oklahoma: Craig County

– SBA loan funds approved: $4.4 million (About $311 per resident)
– Number of loans: 2

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Oregon: Wasco County

– SBA loan funds approved: $6.1 million (About $229 per resident)
– Number of loans: 7

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Pennsylvania: Jefferson County

– SBA loan funds approved: $6.8 million (About $153 per resident)
– Number of loans: 8

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Rhode Island: Kent County

– SBA loan funds approved: $14.9 million (About $88 per resident)
– Number of loans: 39

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South Carolina: Jasper County

– SBA loan funds approved: $5.5 million (About $192 per resident)
– Number of loans: 5

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South Dakota: Deuel County

– SBA loan funds approved: $1.5 million (About $341 per resident)
– Number of loans: 1

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Tennessee: Decatur County

– SBA loan funds approved: $3.0 million (About $262 per resident)
– Number of loans: 2

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Texas: Menard County

– SBA loan funds approved: $1.5 million (About $745 per resident)
– Number of loans: 1

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Utah: Piute County

– SBA loan funds approved: $1.4 million (About $746 per resident)
– Number of loans: 1

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Vermont: Windham County

– SBA loan funds approved: $9.2 million (About $201 per resident)
– Number of loans: 15

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Virginia: Richmond County

– SBA loan funds approved: $6.9 million (About $777 per resident)
– Number of loans: 22

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Washington: Columbia County

– SBA loan funds approved: $1.3 million (About $331 per resident)
– Number of loans: 3

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West Virginia: Marshall County

– SBA loan funds approved: $5.3 million (About $172 per resident)
– Number of loans: 3

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Wisconsin: Vilas County

– SBA loan funds approved: $13.6 million (About $597 per resident)
– Number of loans: 8

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Wyoming: Sheridan County

– SBA loan funds approved: $13.9 million (About $451 per resident)
– Number of loans: 7

Story editing by Ashleigh Graf. Copy editing by Paris Close. Photo selection by Michael Flocker.

This story originally appeared on Flippa and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

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