Rural entrepreneurs, from Eastern Oregon to the coast, are awarded tens of thousands in funding
RURAL OREGON – Business Oregon announced investments in ten rural community projects throughout the state under the Rural Opportunities Initiative (ROI).
The ROI is an initiative that works with communities to cultivate local environments that support entrepreneurs and small businesses. Through financial support, innovative partnerships, network expansion, and access to business development resources, ROI helps strengthen and consolidate entrepreneurial support within and across Oregon’s rural communities.
“We piloted this program with four communities in 2015, to empower local rural leaders to create and implement collaborative strategies that elevate entrepreneurship in rural economic development,” said Business Oregon innovation and entrepreneurship manager Kate Sinner. “We didn’t want a cookie-cutter program. Oregon is made up of a collection of unique regional economies, and this program now has a track record of working with communities to stand up what works for them.”
ROI is designed to be proactively inclusive and community driven. The program empowers local leaders to define and implement collaborative strategies that elevate the role of entrepreneurship in rural economic development. It’s ultimately about enabling entrepreneurs to create rural businesses that in turn bolster rural economies.
In 2017, Business Oregon expanded the successful pilot to eleven communities across the state, distributing grants ranging from $30,000 to $80,000 to fund projects as diverse as establishing a short-haul truckers co-op in eastern Oregon to helping develop a local foods movement to support small fishers, farmers, and restauranteurs on the Oregon coast. Although differing in approach, each ROI project reflects a commitment to serve the diverse needs of local entrepreneurs using strategies that build local capacity and strengthen the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The following projects applied for the recent round of funding and were chosen to receive the grant awards by a grant committee. Business Oregon will solicit additional applicants for the next round of funding the fall of 2021. The Oregon State Legislature has allocated $750,000 to ROI for the 2019-2021 biennium.
The following projects will be funded in this round:
Mid-Columbia Economic Development District (MCEDD) $75,000
MCEDD and local partners will expand business planning resources, promote capital resources, and extend broadband availability to support entrepreneurs and grow markets. ROI funds will support staff capacity and programming.
Project will grow the co-op membership for independent truckers—build economies of scale to compete for contracts, wholesale purchase of supplies, and work toward permanent co-op truck yard. ROI will fund staff, growing co-op membership, developing competitive services, feasibility study for permanent facility.
NE Oregon Economic Development District $65,000
Project will launch an entrepreneur center in partnership with Eastern Oregon University and grow local capacity. ROI will fund staff, leasing costs, EOU entrepreneurship degree development, and furnishing the center.
High Desert Partnership $70,000
Project will unify several programs under an ‘Idea to Ownership’ program—includes pipeline of services (technical assistance, legal support, business education, etc) for all ages and stages of entrepreneurs. ROI funds will support staff and programming, including 1-on-1 technical assistance.
City of Independence $60,000
Project builds on existing assets and a previous ROI grant to build a commercial kitchen and micro-retail space to support growth in the food industry. Aligns with other city initiatives (Indy Commons, Polk Co Food Trail). ROI funds will hire a part-time consultant to develop and manage the kitchen space, marketing, and coordination with partners to deploy programs.
Tillamook Coast Visitors Association $65,000
Project expands on previous ROI project, and funds market analysis of regional distribution center. This is a pilot project to test viability, and some marketing to increase product visibility and entrepreneur participation. ROI will fund a study for food hub distribution, outreach to users and partners, and public relations effort to grow customers/revenue.
Launch Pad Baker $65,000
Project grows capacity from previous ROI award to enhance services, staff capacity, and evaluation metrics that can be replicated. ROI funds will support staff, programming with North Eastern Oregon Economic Development District (NEOEDD) and Foundry.
Klamath Idea $70,000
Project will fully implement and begin piloting a new software tool that connects entrepreneurs and resource providers. Klamath will employ staff to direct the project, staff a regional entrepreneur hotline, host events and pitch competitions, and hire a resource concierge to support entrepreneurs.
Cottage Grove $61,000
Project broadens opportunities for food-based entrepreneurship—especially for immigrants and youth—by supporting financial and business training, mentoring, food truck and retail pilots, and product line development. ROI funds will primarily go to staff and programming.
Warm Springs Community Action Team $44,000
Project creates opportunities for Native entrepreneurs through establishment of the Tananawit community artist retail store, the WSCAT café, and business incubator space in the soon-to-be relocated Old Commissary building. ROI funds will support staff to manage operations for the project.