Ecotrust backs new markets

Ecotrust backs new markets


Garibaldi Forest Management (top), NewWood Corp. (middle) and ZeaChem (bottom) all benefited from New Market tax credits meant to help economically distressed communities.
Struggling rural towns got a $60 million boost in 2010 from the federal New Market tax credit program and Portland-based Ecotrust CDE, which funneled money from the program into regional businesses creating green jobs in economically distressed communities.

Several promising businesses received investment through the program, among them:

  • ZeaChem Applied Technology, which is building a $40 million plant in Boardman to convert waste sawmill wood into ethanol;
  • Ochoco Lumber, which has completed a wood pellet mill in John Day;
  • Garibaldi Forest Management, which is exploring a new economic model involving carbon storage and habitat restoration as well as wood products.
  • NewWood Corp., which makes composites used for fencing, pallets and other products, made from waste wood and recycled plastic.
Under the program, Ecotrust and other CDEs (short for “community development entity”) receive capital in the form of federal tax credits and invest in businesses expanding in economically distressed areas. Nationally, most new market investments occur in urban areas, but Ecotrust's CDE specializes in rural areas that have lost jobs in natural resource industries. The Ecotrust projects backed in 2010 are expected to retain or create 300 jobs directly and another 500 jobs indirectly.

Bettina von Hagen, who has run the Ecotrust CDE since 2008, says a long pipeline of worthy projects awaits further investment in 2011 and beyond. “We’re seeing a tremendous amount of interest,” she says. “We could do $100 million to $200 million in projects per year.”

President Obama had sought to extend the program at $5 billion per year.  That amount was shaved to $3.5 billion, with more than $25 billion in proposals competing for the money.