ONTARIO – The Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Board is nearly ready to inject $5 million into the local economy.

The state money – part of a package of loans and grants – will be used to boost housing and infrastructure in the county as well opening more industrial land for development.

The Eastern Oregon Border Fund Proposed Grant and Loan Program will also provide grants to create more jobs, upgrade local programs or facilities that furnish workforce training and deliver subsidies for local governments for community improvements.

The $5 million was appropriated by the Legislature two years ago. A key part of the board’s mission is to spark economic development in Malheur County along the border with Idaho.

The board will also tackle gaps in state regulations between Oregon and Idaho.

A subcommittee of the border board is now collecting applications from community organizations, agencies and individuals for the program. 

The loan subcommittee includes Ken Hart, president of Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Ontario; Ralph Poole, owner of Poole’s Oil in Ontario, Ontario banker Jed Myers and accountant Doug Lamb. Scott Fairley, Business Oregon regional development officer, serves as the state representative on the subcommittee. 

Hart said the subcommittee would make recommendations on the applications for the board’s decision.

Hart said officials want to make the program as simple as possible.

“We are not trying to reinvent the wheel,” he said.

The subcommittee, which was formed in December, wants to get money out into the community quickly, said Hart.

“We got what we asked for so now we need to step up. It is important to show some success to Salem,” said Hart.

Border board chair Shauna Peterson said there is a “great deal of interest” in the program. 

Hart said the subcommittee is nearly finished working out the details of the program.

“We want to look at different ways to allocate these funds,” said Hart. “Will every program be done by day 1? No. But we are trying to prioritize what we will do first,” said Hart.

Hart said the border board and subcommittee do not want to spend the $5 million at once.

“Because we’d like that money to be available. If we give all five million away the first year then it’s gone,” said Hart.

Peterson said the board hopes to begin to make the first-round of loans or grants by the end of March.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: pat@malheurenterprise.com or 541-473-3377.