Council supports grants to help local businesses

The Sweet Home City Council last week adopted a resolution supporting an annual grant to support area micro-businesses in Linn and Benton counties.

The Linn-Benton Micro-Business Program is in its fifth year of operation, said City Manager Craig Martin. The program has been successful in targeting low- to moderate-income entrepreneurs in the two counties.

The previous funding grant secured by this group has been expended, and a new grant request is being submitted to the state of Oregon to continue this economic development activity.

Since its inception, the program has conducted several 36-hour workshops, graduating 200 interested entrepreneurs, including 38 from the Sweet Home area, Martin said.

Under the program, participants have access to microloan programs, one through OSU Federal Credit Union and one through the Oregon Microenterprise Network. Participants also have access to the Valley Individual Development Account Program, a long-term matched savings in which they can be matched $3 for every $1 they save.

These funds may be used for the startup or expansion of a business. Right now, the program has 18 people from Linn and Benton counties enrolled in the VIDA program. They have access to $86,000 in matching funds.

The program brings knowledgeable librarians from Oregon State University and Linn-Benton Community College into the classroom to talk with participants about the databases and resources available through the program’s library system.

Participants also have access to MarketLink, a market research program through the Oregon Microenterprise Network.

Through this program they’re able to access industry information and create mailing lists of potential customers.

Participants also may be paired with a mentor through ExperienceXchange, a business mentoring program that the program offers in collaboration with the Corvallis Independent Business Alliance, Downtown Corvallis Association, the Chamber Coalition and Linn-Benton Community College.

The program links new business owners with experienced entrepreneurs and professionals. More than 40 participants have been paired with a mentor.

Present at the meeting and voting to adopt the resolution were Mayor Craig Fentiman and councilors Laure Fowler, Greg Mahler, Eric Markell and Scott McKee Jr. Jim Bean and Jim Gourley were absent.

Call (541)752-7220 for more information about the program.

In other business, the council:

– Held the second reading of an ordinance to annex two properties on Alder Street and a second reading of an ordinance creating a new franchise agreement with CenturyLink to provide telecommunications in Sweet Home.

– Adopted an ordinance establishing administrative fees for violations of the building codes. With an expediency clause, the ordinance took effect immediately. The fee replaces a municipal court process. The council also set fees.

– Reappointed Dan Holman to the All-Hazard Mitigation Planning Committee.