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Caroline Cummings and Marc Manley of RAIN the Regional Accelerator & Innovation Network, presented an update on the four-county economic development program during the Tuesday meeting of the Linn County Board of Commissioners. 

Linn County’s financial support of the RAIN (Regional Accelerator & Innovation Network) is especially important to rural communities, Commissioner Roger Nyquist said Tuesday after listening to an update from network officials.

“Although Albany and Lebanon are seeing an economic upturn, our rural areas, such as Sweet Home, Brownsville, and the North Canyon communities of Lyons and Mehama, have been left way behind,” Nyquist said.

RAIN offers an outreach into those areas, Nyquist said.

In December 2015, Linn County invested $34,000 from its economic development fund into the four-county — Linn, Benton, Lane and Lincoln — RAIN program.

Nyquist, a longtime business owner, said he and his peers have often talked about the challenges facing young entrepreneurs due to burdensome government regulations.

“We don’t know how young persons will ever get a chance to go into business for themselves,” Nyquist said. “I grew up in a small business family and we always believed that owning your own business was the American dream. Now, we have a government that wants to take rich people’s money and pass it down to others. The demonization of business by today’s society is very harmful.”

RAIN’s goals are to help local entrepreneurs, many of whom are working out of their homes or garages, build their businesses into operations that create local jobs.

RAIN’s goals are:

• Working with the right people.

• Connecting them with helpful programs.

• Creating a strong network of support for them.

• Helping connect them with venture capital.

According to Marc Manley, RAIN's executive director, since the organization was founded in 2013, it has generated more than $9.7 million in revenue, raised nearly $25 million in capital and assisted 602 companies that created 295 jobs and engaged 173 mentors.

In 2016, RAIN had six Albany-based events attended by 132 people.

Caroline Cummings, RAIN's venture catalyst, said a survey of those who took advantage of RAIN programs showed that 40 percent of the Albany-based businesses created products or services that are sold primarily in Oregon and 13 percent are focused on sales outside of the state.

Some 64 percent are incorporated businesses and 57 percent are currently selling products. Another 43 percent are in the development sage and 7 percent are in the idea/conceptual stage.

Their top three business challenges are access to money, marketing and mentors.

In all, 79 percent of those surveyed said they would like to be added to a waiting list if RAIN were to create a co-working space in Albany, where they could launch or scale up a business.

The Albany-area business owners are predominantly white, 82 percent, although 18 percent are Hispanic. Cummings said 60 percent are male, while 40 percent are female. She said the number of female owners was higher than average.

The majority of businesses, 67 percent, are based in Albany, 25 percent in Corvallis and 8 percent in Lebanon.

Cummings said outreach is a key goal of RAIN and local coffee times are set in Lebanon and Sweet Home:

• Lebanon: 5:30 p.m., April 4, Conversion Brewing, 833 S. Main St.

• Sweet Home: 8 a.m., April 20, Sugar Vibes, 1302 Long St.

Other events of interest:

• A “Mentor Mixer” will start at 5:30 p.m. May 2 in the Flinn Block meeting hall, 222 W. First Ave. in Albany.

• The annual Willamette Angels Conference) will be from noon to 8 p.m. May 11 at the Whiteside Theater, 361 SW Madison Ave. in Corvallis.

To learn more about RAIN, visit www.oregonrain.org.

Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.

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