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Success Stories

Fueling Wage Growth, Business Expansion in the Columbia Gorge

Erin McDuff
Small Business
Photo of downtown Hood River, Oregon, in the Columbia Gorge

Rural businesses on both sides of the Columbia River—from a brewery to an assisted living facility, from a Thai restaurant to a tribal fish market—are improving the local economy by hiring more employees and providing higher wages. These myriad small businesses have one thing in common: they were unable to obtain conventional loans. Instead, they financed the start-up or expansion of their business with assistance from the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District (MCEDD).

USDA Rural Development helped to capitalize MCEDD’s revolving loan fund through $2.86 million in Intermediary Relending Program loans. Those funds are still being revolved by MCEDD today, with the nonprofit providing new funding as existing loans are paid off. So far, the portion of MCEDD’s revolving loan fund capitalized by USDA has assisted more than 80 small businesses. “We appreciate the primary role that USDA played in providing the capital for this program,” said Amanda Hoey, Executive Director of MCEDD.

Many of the businesses assisted are investing in higher wages and training for their employees. The highest growth businesses are exporting products or bringing in business from outside the local area. An independent analysis of the impact of this lending program over the past 15 years found that 85 percent of the businesses assisted were able to increase hiring as a direct result of their loan from MCEDD, and that 88 percent were stable or growing after concluding their financial relationship with the nonprofit. Still more impressive, the study found that MCEDD’s assistance resulted in a total wage growth of $40 million in the region, with more than 50 percent attributable to jobs paying higher than average wages for the area.

“The study consultants reflected that they were astounded by how much our clients were giving back to their communities,” said Hoey. Overall, the increased access to capital is significantly contributing to the creation, growth, and success of local business ventures, which is improving the economy and opportunities for local residents.

Obligation Amount:
$2.86 million loans
Year(s) of Obligation:
Congressional District:
Representative Walden, District 2