A program designed to support the financing needs of businesses in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is finding success. The Oregon Investment Board (OIB), staffed by Mid-Columbia Economic Development District, created the pilot loan program in 2018 to support the financial needs of small businesses with a streamlined application process, minimal documentation and insurance requirements, ingrained small business counseling, and performance incentives. With eight local businesses successfully accessing the fund since it started last year, the Board decided to increase resources in the pilot loan program to encourage additional applications.
Jack Miller, Board chair for the OIB states that, in creating the fund the Board “identified a need for a flexible financing tool to support businesses in the Scenic Area and one which could be deployed following economic emergencies.” Initially seeding the fund with $250,000, Jack notes the board is focused on the success of the program to-date and the future of the program for more businesses. He states “With the success of the pilot program and businesses who have accessed the resource, we are pleased to ensure an additional pool of loan funds, setting aside an additional $80,000 to the program.”
Given the streamlined application process, these additional funds are also available in emergency situations. Amanda Hoey, Mid-Columbia Economic Development District Executive Director noted that “many of the businesses who initially accessed the fund were suffering a combined period of economic stress from a difficult fire season following a long stretch of winter weather.” The pilot funds were ready to offer interim, short term gap financing. As the pilot program includes business counseling, the program is geared towards long-term success of local businesses as they grow and to support businesses through emergencies. Most often, businesses are accessing the small business counseling through resources at Columbia Gorge Community College’s Small Business Development Center.
Overall, the OIB offers a wider range of financing tools for small businesses in the Oregon boundary of the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area in Wasco, Hood River and Multnomah counties. The OIB programs supplement traditional lending resources available through commercial banks and can provide funding when another lender is unable to work with a business client. More information on the pilot program and the application can be found at http://www.mcedd.org/financing/oregon-investment-board/apply/
In 1986, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act established a bi-state, six-county region shared by the states of Oregon and Washington. In conjunction with this Act, Congress earmarked a small amount of funding for Oregon and Washington for the purpose of making economic development loans and grants. The Columbia River Gorge Oregon Investment Board (OIB) is responsible for the administration of the Oregon Economic Development Plan, within Multnomah, Hood River, and Wasco, the Oregon counties lying in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The Columbia River Gorge Commission certifies projects. Mid-Columbia Economic Development District provides administration for the program.