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SOREDI gets pair of $150,000 grants for business loans

Southern Oregon Regional EconomicDevelopment has secured a pair of $150,000 federal grants to add to itsrevolving loan fund for small businesses.

The grants, awarded Thursday,came from the Rural Business-Cooperative Service, a branch of the U.S.Department of Agriculture Rural Development.

The first grant is part of aregular annual allocation for Oregon from the USDA. The second is specificallyearmarked for use in the Josephine County Enterprise Community, which includesmost of that county outside Grants Pass. Businesses there get incentives toencourage growth.

This investment is one stepneeded to attract small businesses to rural Oregon, said Lynn Schoessler,state director of USDA Rural Development. We will continue to work withour state, regional and local partners to keep rural Oregon economically viableand a great place to do business.

With the funding, SOREDI offerslow-interest loans to businesses to create or retain jobs or to create newbusinesses. With the new grants, the loan fund tops $5 million.

Since 1995, the agency has madeabout 70 loans totaling $4.7 million to businesses in Jackson and Josephinecounties and created or retained 620 jobs. Though the loans are relatively highrisk, only four of the 70 have gone into default.

SOREDI officials said the grantscome at a good time, since much of the fund is committed.

We're getting pretty wellloaned out, said SOREDI's Bob Bueoy, who oversees the program.

About 44 percent of the loansmade from the fund have gone to the Josephine County Enterprise Community. About$1.957 million from the fund has been invested there, creating or retaining 220jobs.