Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



More than 4,000 Columbia County jobs retained with aid of PPP loans, federal data shows

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - Timber, transportation and construction businesses were major recipients of PPP loans in Columbia County.Newly released data shows that 22 Columbia County businesses have received loans of more than $350,000 through the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

Almost 400 other Columbia County businesses received loans of less than $350,000.

The data released by the federal Small Business Administration only reveals the recipients of loans of more than $150,000. For Columbia County, that means that only 12.6% of the loan recipients are known.

Two businesses received loans between $2 million and 5 million: Columbia Community Mental Health and Rightline Equipment. CCMH is the behavioral health provider for Columbia County. According to the SBA data, the company retained 214 jobs during the pandemic. Rightline Equipment, a Rainier-based manufacturer, was the county's largest employer in 2016. The company retained 262 jobs.

In total, 341 Oregon businesses received loans between $2 and 5 million.

St. Helens metal fabricator Pacific Stainless Products, Scappoose general contractor TFT Construction, and Rainier lumber transporter Teevin Bros. Land and Timber Company each received loans between $1 and 2 million. Jeff Kemp, president of Pacific Stainless Products, said the company received a loan of $1.6 million.

The company had layoffs and furloughs due to COVID-19 in April, which reduced the number of employees to 154, Kemp said, but after hiring back employees with the PPP funds, the company had 184 workers.PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - Mark's Custom Exteriors, which was located in this St. Helens building until last, was one of the local recipients of PPP loans.

In the rest of the state, 651 businesses received loans in the same dollar range.

Seventeen Columbia County companies received loans between $350,000 and $1 million: Aero Investment Strategies, which operates as Composites Universal Group; Circle of Life, which operates as Rainshadow Labs and produces skin care products for various brands; Columbia N.W. Heating; social service provider Community Action Team; custom cabinetry manufacturer Crestwood; Evenson Logging in Clatskanie; costume and set producer Michael Curry Design; Oxbo, which transports heavy machinery; Pellham Cutting; Scappoose Sand and Gravel; ATM Service Pro; JLJ Earthmovers; Oregon Aero; and car dealerships Emmert Chevrolet Buick and Par Auto Group.

The SBA data also included Longview Napa Auto Parts, but the address reflects the chain retailer's Scappoose location. The data also included Neary Landscape, which was listed as located in Vernonia, but the address and online presence reference a business in Santa Rosa, California. Neither Neary nor Napa responded to questions from the Spotlight to clarify the data's accuracy.

Local and nationally, the data is rife with errors.

Sauvie Island School, a public charter school in the Scappoose School District, received a loan between $150,000 and $350,000. Though the school is located in Multnomah County, the SBA data stated the school's address as a home in Scappoose, though that address is not listed on the school's business registration.

The school ultimately returned the loan, Director Darla Meeuwsen said. The school applied when the application first opened, but was initially denied. The school's application was accepted in the next round, but Meeuwsen said that by then, the program had added more details about who was eligible, and the school's leadership was unsure if they truly qualified. Meeuwsen said staff struggled to get clear answers from the SBA or lender, so they opted to return the funds. "It was really hard to get any information or even talk to anyone about it, so our board decided not to participate," Meeuwsen said.

Another business, WNL, Inc., was listed with a Columbia City address, but the business is located in Clackamas.

Across the state, 53 businesses received loans of $5 to 10 million, but none of those were located in Columbia County.

The loans are provided through banks, but are guaranteed by SBA. If businesses use the funds to keep workers employed and make rent, mortgage or utility payments, the loans can be forgiven.

The SBA reopened applications for PPP loans on July 6.

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