BY TIM MCCABE
Oregon is a state of small businesses. More than 75% of the businesses in the state employ only between one and nine employees. That is why, at Business Oregon, we focus so much of our work on helping small businesses finance growth and find new markets for their products. Our Business Finance team’s effectiveness has multiplied exponentially in the last two years, in part due to the infusion of $16.5 million in State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) funds from the federal government. These funds, combined with our existing funding from Oregon Lottery revenue, are used in partnership with private lenders to leverage everyone’s resources to best accommodate business growth.
These are revolving loan and loan-guarantee programs, not grants or giveaways. So far, we’ve helped nearly 100 Oregon small businesses and disbursed close to $5 million of the SSBCI funds. Better yet, rural companies, often located in the areas of highest unemployment in the state, have received 61% of the SSBCI funds.
Oregon’s success in supporting businesses with this fund has been noticed nationally and was highlighted recently by Toby Rittner, president and CEO of the Council of Development Finance Agencies. “Business Oregon is a state agency [that] is cutting edge, innovative and an example of best practices in our industry,” Rittner said.
Overall, the number of loan guarantees issued through Business Oregon’s Credit Enhancement Fund (CEF) increased 25% in 2012 over the previous year. In 2012 Business Oregon helped private lenders issue more than $30 million in loans and the total loan amount rose 57% over the same period. In addition, the number of new jobs created as a result of the CEF loan guarantees also increased 74%.
We can do more. These tools are intended to free up capital to spur small-business growth, and we can work with your business and lender to do just that. A great example of how we can help Oregon small businesses reach their goals is Boneyard Beer in Bend. Only in Oregon could a former keg washer for Deschutes Brewery, who moved to Bend to snowboard, first become a builder and salvager of brewing equipment, then start a microbrewery that now perches on the doorstep of Oregon’s top 10 microbreweries. And he did it in less than three years.
That is the story of Boneyard Beer co-owner and head brewer Tony Lawrence. Lawrence named his brewery after the “boneyard” of discarded and used brewing equipment he collected and then rebuilt to produce his first keg of Boneyard beer in April 2010. In less than three years, Boneyard had grown to become Oregon’s 11th largest microbrewery, increasing its sales 175% in 2012 to reach 7,500 barrels of production. Central Oregon is already home to several of the state’s top breweries, and the three-county region leads the state with one brewing-industry job for every 390 residents.
Business Oregon recently signed on to partner with Boneyard to grow into a 15,000-square-foot plant in northeast Bend complete with a new canning line. The company used a Business Oregon loan guarantee in partnership with the company’s local bank. The company’s new plant is expected to allow it to double its brewing production in 2013. The company currently employs about a dozen workers and hopes to start canning beer this month. This is how we can partner with small businesses to reach their potential, and with fine examples like Boneyard Beer, some of the best beer in the world gets created along the way.
Tim McCabe is the director of Business Oregon. Visit Oregon4biz.com for more information.