Malheur County region soon to get 10 efforts to help fix up properties, attract workers

Shawna Peterson, left, is chair of the Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Board. (Enterprise/File)

ONTARIO – The Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Board is nearly finished with the final details of a grant and loan program that will help homeowners, property owners and local governments.

The program consists of 10 initiatives designed to spark economic growth along the border region of Malheur County and Idaho. 

“Each of the 10 programs are designed to address a different problem that we’ve identified in the border region and complement each other,” said board chair Shawna Peterson.

The board will use $5 million in state funds.

Peterson said the board finalized programs last month.

“The only things remaining between us and putting the applications out are some logistical pieces with the Department of Justice and BizOregon,” said Peterson.

Business Oregon – commonly referred to as BizOregon – is the state economic development agency.

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Peterson said the board programs would be offered in stages.

“We hope to launch the programs as they come up. It won’t be all 10 at once. We are working on timelines now,” said Peterson.

Peterson said applications to take advantage of the programs would be ready in January.

“Our board is committed to a speedy review and award and then disbursement,” said Peterson.

The board will use Business Oregon to process applications for loans and grants, said Peterson, but final approval will be up to the board.

“It will be a very local decision,” said Peterson. “An application comes in and it will be checked for completeness. If it has a loan element it would go to BizOregon for the usual underwriting process.”

One program would give $6,000 for completing a single-family home, townhouse or duplex with an assessed value of at least $125,000. The homeowner would also be eligible for a rebate of up to $1,500 on property taxes for up to 10 years.

A property improvement program is designed to help residents spruce up their homes or business. The program provides a rebate of up to 15%, capped at $30,000, for “substantial improvements” to homes and commercial and industrial property and new developments. The improvements must boost the assessed value $10,000. 

The board’s infrastructure revolving loan program will loan up to $250,000 to governments and developers for new residential, commercial or industrial development. 

“We think it will motivate developers to bring a little more activity over here,” said Peterson.

The housing rehabilitation loan program provides up to $15,000 to homeowners to improve the “exterior aesthetics of their home.” The interest-free loan is paid back over five years. 

An industrial land certification loan program would give private landowners up to $50,000 to update industrial land readiness with the state. 

The board will also roll out four grant programs. 

The ready workforce mobilization grant, would provide up to $100,000 to public and private organizations to remove barriers for local workers such as transportation and child care.

The grant, Peterson said, emanated from feedback gathered by the board.

“It is unique. We heard regularly there are barriers to get enough workers. We heard over and over it wasn’t a training issue,” said Peterson.

Peterson said lack of transportation and finding adequate childcare hamper many people who were able and wanted to work.

“An applicant would have a program that they would want to develop, like start a daycare. Or the applicant could be a major employer or a group of employers who want to team up and address childcare and transportation,” said Peterson. 

The grants will be awarded to a business, a nonprofit organization, a local government or educational service providers.

The education and workforce training grant will be awarded to local schools to boost programs and equipment and facility upgrades to support workforce training. This grant will require a one-to-one match and the maximum amount of the grant is $200,000.

The community improvement planning grant allows local governments to apply for a maximum of $200,000 to finish community improvement projects such as master plans and upgrades to airports, parks and transportation.

The Edge Grant will be awarded to those who show they can boost the local economy through creative solutions. The grant is open to residents, land owners, schools, businesses, local government and nonprofit organizations. The maximum grant is $25,000. 

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected]

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