BY TIM MCCABE
As we kick off a new year, as well as the 2013 legislative session, I am pleased to debut this regular column to highlight specific tools and services available to help Oregon businesses grow and prosper.
As director of Business Oregon, the state’s economic development agency, I oversee a wide range of tools available to help businesses grow in Oregon. Export assistance, direct loan programs, loan guarantees with private lenders, cutting-edge research and development resources through the Oregon Innovation Council (Oregon InC), project development — these are all areas where we can assist. We also serve as a gateway to match businesses with other tools from both public and private sources.
Oregon’s gross domestic product grew faster than all but one state in the nation last year. We boast one of the top metropolitan areas for exports in the U.S. in the Portland Metro region. Our emphasis on sustainability and clean energy has opened eyes around the world.
But we know that here on the ground most Oregon businesses require more tangible assistance, such as help increasing the efficiency of manufacturing operations, access to critical short-term and long-term capital from local banks, and help entering new foreign markets to grow revenues from sales overseas. To that end, Business Oregon has business development experts, business finance officers and global trade specialists stationed across the state, as well as overseas , to help any Oregon business we can.
When it comes to increasing access to capital, we leverage our limited resources to provide both direct loans and loan guarantees to expanding Oregon businesses. We were able to bolster our finance programs with $16.5 million in federal funds through the SSBCI (State Small Business Credit Initiative) program last year. We have already issued $4 million of those funds to small businesses across the state to help fund expansion opportunities.
The Oregon Innovation Plan and Oregon InC allow us to extend critical research and development resources to young Oregon companies such as Puralytics, Indow Windows and Perpetua Power, and to help them commercialize their innovative new products. Since 2007, the state’s $58 million investment in Oregon InC has leveraged an additional $350 million in federal and private grants. Around 295 companies use the 11 shared labs and researchers available at Oregon InC signature research centers ,and 30 new companies have been created to date that have garnered more than $115 million in venture capital.
The value of Oregon exports has grown 23% since 2009. We can help Oregon companies that haven’t yet tried selling to foreign markets to get into those markets and bring new revenue back home. Oregon businesses can access expertise in key industries and specific foreign markets, including our representatives overseas in China, Japan, Korea and Europe.
We can pair that expertise with small grants to help offset the costs of exhibiting at overseas trade shows. This funding has also been recently expanded through federal funds with the U.S. SBA’s STEP program, and we are now able to help even more companies—about 100 last year alone.
Overall, we partnered with over 400 Oregon businesses last year to work with them in these areas. These are fast-growing Oregon companies that are expanding and creating jobs for Oregonians. In the coming months, you’ll hear us talking about these programs before state legislators and in these pages as we seek to carry out Gov. John Kitzhaber’s vision of increased economic opportunity for all Oregonians.
Tim McCabe is the director of Business Oregon. Visit Oregon4biz.com for more information.