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Gilliam Co. Court approves small business grant program

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County again partners with Condon Chamber of Commerce to administer funding

The Gilliam County Court has taken the remarkable step of offering financial support to small businesses through a new grant program.

In their January 19th session, Judge Elizabeth Farrar Campbell and Commissioners Sherrie Wilkins and Pat Shannon agreed on the framework, which will allot $75,000 each fiscal year through 2025. The court left open the option to go above the annual $75,000 threshold should the need exist.

The court will use money that is in the economic development fund, which currently has more than $3.5 million. Initially, the court had discussed making approximately $65,000 available through the grant program, roughly the amount that is dedicated by Waste Management for small businesses each year.

The Gilliam County Court will partner with the Oregon Frontier Chamber of Commerce (formerly the Condon Chamber of Commerce), who will disperse the funds with a grant-committee.

In 2020 and in 2021, the Gilliam County Court tapped the Condon Chamber to help distribute federal and state money for COVID relief. By doing so, the Court does not have to collect business records and sensitive material that would then be made part of the public record. By utilizing the Condon Chamber of Commerce, the court is able to provide assistance to businesses without revealing their financial records.

For administering the program, the Condon Chamber of Commerce will receive a ten-percent administrative fee. Each year, the Condon Chamber will receive $7,500 if all funds are spent and more should the court authorize additional funding.

The outline of the grant program is threefold. First, the funding will help businesses that are facing an emergency and are in danger of collapse. In addition, the grant program will incentivize new businesses to start in Gilliam County. And third, the grant program will help existing businesses who are looking to expand or to offer a new product or service.

K’Lynn Lane with the Condon Chamber of Commerce says that the impact will be substantial for businesses in Gilliam County.

“In the three years, we have a full $225,000 minimum that will go together on county businesses,” Lane told the court. “And then on the other side, you’re also supporting your chamber, which is supporting these stronger and more sustainable communities.”

The timing of the grant funding is significant. In November, the Condon Chamber of Commerce received funding from Business Oregon’s Rural Opportunities Investment (ROI) grant, which seeks to strengthen and consolidate entrepreneurial ecosystems across Oregon’s rural communities.

Earlier this month, the Condon Chamber was awarded the Small Business Technical Assistance grant from Business Oregon, which provides specialized services to businesses. Examples include legal support, bookkeeping assistance, web-design and other essential services.

Now, with additional support from the Gilliam County Court, area businesses will have the opportunity to get complete wrap-around services along with financial support from the chamber.

“We don’t just want to hand money to businesses and say, ‘good luck’ – we want to make sure that we’re connecting them and making sure that their books are solid, all of those kinds of things so that they’re sustainable on their own,” said Judge Farrar Campbell.

Noting that the chamber is in the process of rebranding and is working to be a chamber for communities in Gilliam, Wheeler and Sherman counties the court noted that businesses and entrepreneurs in Gilliam County would have access to services in the wider region.

“It’s broader than just cutting a check,” Judge Farrar Campbell said. “I want the public to understand that the expectation is a greater one and that K’Lynn, frankly, is going to continue to engage on a regional level. To keep connecting businesses with each other and with other resources.”

The Condon Chamber of Commerce is currently working to establish guidelines and to reestablish a grant committee. Once that is done, area businesses will be eligible to apply. The Times-Journal will provide updates on the Small Business Grant Program in the next edition.

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