Cathy Zacharias will receive $6,000 from the Eastern Oregon Border Economic development Board to help her Vale business, ExZacht Sewing and Alterations, complete an equipment upgrade. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell)

VALE – Just after the first of the year, seamstress Cathy Zacharias ran into a “good” problem.

The owner of ExZacht Sewing and Alterations at 233 A St. W. in Vale, Zacharias was contracted by a sports and quad motorcycle company to produce vinyl seat covers.

The contract represented a major leap forward for her small business but it also meant Zacharias needed money to finance more sewing machines and a part-time employee to handle the new workload.

So, Zacharias applied for the Scott Fairley Memorial Edge Grant offered by the Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Board and recently learned she will receive a $6,000 subsidy to help her expand.

“Once I have the new machine I will get someone in to work it. It’s not like I am bringing hundreds of jobs but it’s exciting,” said Zacharias.

Zacharias is just one of a number of individuals, cities and agencies recently awarded border board grants.

The board announced last week it will distribute $276,725 across the county in the next few months.

Recent recipients include the city of Nyssa, the Malheur Education Service District, the Treasure Valley Community College Foundation, the Brogan Community Society, Sage Hollow Farms, and the TVCC Center for Business, Workforce and Community Learning.

Nyssa will receive $50,000 to create a master plan to upgrade the city’s wastewater plant, said City Manager Jim Maret.

“I think you have to plan for the future and I think we will need a little bigger facility down the road. So, we will do the plan to see what we need to do and how big we can go,” said Maret.

The Malheur Education Service District’s Frontier STEM Hub program will get $23,725 from the border board’s Education and Workforce Training grant.

The money will help the education service district program fund five interns with area businesses for the summer.

“It’s huge. Excellent. And it will make a huge difference for those young people who will receive placements,” said Nickie Shira, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) coordinator for the Education Service District.

The TVCC Foundation will receive $100,000 to update technology and equipment for the college’s nursing program and its Allied Health facility.

The Brogan Community Society will get $2,000 to help fund a commercial kitchen project.

Sage Hollow Farms in Malheur County will receive a $25,000 grant for landscaping and equipment while the TVCC Center for Business, Workforce and Community Learning will get $10,000 for its HVAC apprenticeship program.

“I am encouraged and hopeful the investment will return in jobs and economic development,” said Tiffany Cruickshank, Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Board chair.

Cruickshank said the money should be delivered “fairly soon.”

“The border board was tasked with trying to make the border region more competitive with Idaho through a variety of programs. I am hopeful with what we created it will reap benefits,” said Cruickshank.

For Zacharias, the grant will increase her production and help her meet the requirements of her vinyl seat cover contract.

Now, she said, she uses an industrial sewing machine that “allows me to do 10 to 12 (seat covers) an hour.”

Zacharias said adding a part-time employee falls in line with her desire to pass her skills onto the younger generation.

She has been a seamstress most of her life and opened her business in 2019.

“It is a skill set, like a builder or a welder. My dream has been to give these kids a chance, an opportunity and a skill they might otherwise learn,” said Zacharias.

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