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New rules implemented by the state have opened the door to Oregonians investing directly in privately held companies.

An individual can put as much as $2,500 into each company or start-up that has registered with the state and paid a $200 fee. The companies can take on investments up to $250,000 and are required to produce 80 percent of their revenue within Oregon. The rules were approved in November and filed last week by the state Consumer and Business Services Department, Finance and Corporate Securities Division.

"This turns every citizen in Oregon into a potential investor," said Heather Stafford, executive director of Sustainable Valley Technology Group, who has been an active proponent in the process. "Based on what's in people's savings, there is $915 million — nearly a billion dollars — for investment."

Potential crowdfund investors can take a look-see at the first round of companies throwing their hat into the ring from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 27, at the Bohemian Club, 123 W. Main St. Medford. Four companies are expected to make their pitches, following a similar event in Portland this Thursday.

Stafford has collaborated with Hatch Oregon's Amy Pearl in developing the program with the state. She's also worked with several companies in Sustainable Valley's business accelerator program

One of the program's graduates is Michael Antonopoulos, who created TonTon's Artisan Affections, gluten-free hummus products, three years ago. He has operated out of Talent Rental Kitchen, near Ray's Market, but has long wanted a production site of his own.

Antonopoulos said Monday he plans to build a permanent production facility, allowing automated production and packaging of hummus into new high-pressure pasteurized containers.

The containers will be shipped to a Portland firm with high-pressure pasteurization capabilities. Antonopoulos said the process will extend the shelf life of his product three-fold, extending market range and making distribution easier.

Until recently, Antonopoulos thought it would take buying a million-dollar piece of equipment to move his three-year-old business beyond its hand-to-mouth regimen. Even the new program wouldn't have covered such an investment. However, the container option opened up doors for both expanding and relocating the business.

"My product has a shelf-life of 10 days to two weeks, and that creates major challenges," Antonopoulos admitted. "This extends the shelf-life to four to six weeks and makes it very marketable."

He can now focus on finding a location to build his own kitchen that can serve as an incubator for regional gluten-free, non-GMO food businesses.

"I've been looking at different warehouses in Ashland," Antonopoulos said. "I wouldn't say it's the most cost-effective choice, but I live in Ashland and my distributor is in Ashland. When I'm crunching the numbers, I'll be willing to look at other places."

Stafford said companies that have gone through the accelerator  — food production start-up Gro-Volution, led by Oregon Tech graduate Eric Wilson; electric agriculture utility vehicle maker Rogue Rovers, founded by Melissa Brandao; and Wylie's Honey Brews, operated by Wylie Bettinger — are also candidates for the program.

While an individual stake in a particular company is capped at $2,500, Stafford said the form of the investment can come in a variety of ways.

"Some will come in the form of debt, some equity, and some convertible notes," she said. "All of them will be a little different." 

To register for the event, go to http://sustainablevalley.technology/index.php/events/launchoregon

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31, and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.

Michael Antonopoulos, left, and Erik Harms are hoping to finance a bigger space to prepare foods for their business TonTon's Artisan Affections. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell