Economic development grant program has distributed more than $87,000 in four years

PMG FILE PHOTO - The Columbia River People's Utility District is based in Deer Island.Columbia River People's Utility District is revamping its economic development grant program.

Since the grant program was created in 2018, Columbia River PUD has awarded more than $87,000 to local groups, most in grants of $7,500.

The changes to the grant program will expand eligibility to include projects that "enhance livability." 

"We have not received as many applications as we hoped when we instituted the program, so we are hoping these changes will encourage more organizations to apply," district spokesperson Kyle Boggs explained.

Boggs said the grant application was previously only open to projects "designed to promote investment in long-term economic development and growth of business and industry in our service area for the benefit of the local community and our customers." 

Under the new guidelines approved by Columbia River PUD's board of directors in December, projects must "promote economic development and enhance livability in our community."

The PUD has budgeted $50,000 for the grant program in 2022, meaning it can award up to 10 grants of $5,000.

The revisions lowered the maximum grant amount from $7,500 to $5,000.

In 2021, the board approved four grants, each for $7,500. The recipients were the Rainier Historical Museum; the "shop local" initiative Keep It Local Columbia County; the City of Scappoose for its 100-year celebration; and the Port of Columbia County to create an inventory of industrial lands.

Applications have been accepted on a rolling basis, but will now be accepted for two funding rounds each year; one with a deadline of Feb. 28, and one with a deadline of Aug. 31.

The revisions also include changes to the application questions. 

Columbia River PUD administration and public relations manager Heidi Ralls told the board in December that after the grant program was started, those reviewing the applications "quickly learned that the application questions were perceived as redundant and each question was answered similarly without providing additional details on the project seeking funding."

Additionally, Ralls noted, "The lack of a formal deadline creates barriers in processing applications efficiently."

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