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Local support reaches $150,000 for business development center in Columbia County.

PMG GRAPHIC: ANNA DEL SAVIO - If the federal appropriation comes through, the business resource center will have its four-year operating budget covered. If the city of Rainier also contributes, the center will have more than its budget of $700,000.Plans for a business resource center run under the Columbia Economic Team are moving forward, as the project has secured commitments for $150,000 in local dollars to match federal and state funding sources.

St. Helens committed the largest amount to funding the resource for local small businesses, allocating $50,000 of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. Vernonia has committed $10,000; Clatskanie, $15,000; Columbia City, $2,500; Scappoose, $25,000; and Columbia County, $37,500, according to CET director Paul Vogel.

The Samuel S. Johnson Foundation, named for the politician father of state Sen. Betsy Johnson, contributed $10,000.

Combined, the contributions add up to $150,000.

A request for $10,000 to $15,000 from Rainier is still pending with that city's council.

The total budget for a four-year pilot program is $700,000.

The Oregon Small Business Development Center Network is providing $75,000 per year. CET received an additional $75,000 from a one-time grant, bringing the running total to $525,000.

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici earmarked $175,000 for the resource center in an appropriations bill that passed the House and is now awaiting Senate action. That would close the funding gap, if the Senate approves the bill without changes and President Joe Biden signs it into law.

The earmarked funds aren't a guarantee, but Vogel said he's confident the funding will be approved.

But if it isn't, "we will raise the money other ways," Vogel said.

The contribution from Scappoose is contingent on the federal funding coming through.

"We've got other stakeholders, there are some other federal sources, some state sources," he said. "We've got a long list of candidates."

CET is working with the statewide business center network on a contract, which will be presented to the CET board in November.

CET's board includes a number of local leaders that have voted in favor of funding for their districts, such as Scappoose Mayor Scott Burge and Columbia County Commissioner Henry Heimuller.

Vogel said the process of hiring a leader for the business resource center will begin "as soon as possible … assuming my board approves."

"We're really starting to put the pieces in place. The great thing about being part of the SBDC Network is that they've done this before. They've got protocols, they've got procedures, they've got all the resources," Vogel said. "It's really a matter of us starting to meet with them and get on the same page in terms of accounting and reporting and all that stuff."

Columbia County's business resource center will take a different form than small business development centers elsewhere in the state. Those centers, often referred to as SBDCs, all offer classes and one-on-one coaching for small business owners, led by a part-time advisor.

Columbia County will have an SBDC within a "business resource center," which offers more flexibility because it isn't an official designation that brings funding but strict standards. Beyond the SBDC functions, the Columbia County center will also do more outreach.


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