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RAIN leader: Business startups need fed stimulus

RAIN leader: Business startups need fed stimulus

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The failure of federal elected officials to agree on a second COVID-19 pandemic stimulus package is weighing heavily on mid-valley entrepreneurs, according to Corey Wright with Oregon RAIN — the state's Regional Accelerator Innovation Network.

“The federal government’s waffling on additional COVID relief puts the economic recovery of our Linn-Benton communities in jeopardy,” Wright said. “As policymakers stall, they force deep cuts in desperately needed state and local services and undermine the number one creator of new jobs: new and young businesses.”

Wright said it is important for political leaders to understand the three keys to entrepreneurial success: access to capital and knowledge, less red tape, and the freedom and support to take risks.

Results of a September survey of startup businesses in Linn and Benton counties showed that 45% saw their revenues decrease; 29% said COVID-19 kept them from raising capital; and 19% had put off plans to hire more staff due to COVID-19.

Wright said his territory as a RAIN venture catalyst in the mid-valley includes working with about 238 entrepreneurs.

Wright said that many small or new businesses have less than two weeks' cash in reserve.

“The pandemic has forced us to change how we reach out to people,” Wright said.

Wright said that in February, RAIN sponsored a regional training session, but when the pandemic hit, participants had to leave the program to get jobs or take care of family members.

“There was no social safety net so they could keep working on a new business,” Wright said.

Wright said the lack of access to capital has been a major problem.

“Prior to the pandemic, we had five startups that were at the point of pitching investors for capital,” Wright said. “Once the pandemic struck, funding dried up. If you wanted to start a restaurant, good luck. One business got $200,000 from angel investors, but that took six months to get.”

Wright said RAIN has also provided assistance to businesses that needed help applying for the Paycheck Protection Program and developing profit and loss statements to be used to secure capital.

Wright said RAIN has been focusing on helping startups market themselves online due to the COVID-19 social distancing restrictions.

“Businesses can get sales and marketing assistance online,” Wright said. “We developed a 10-week virtual program and we had 140 applications from 103 companies in 51 cities and 20 counties.”

There were 24 companies from Linn and Benton counties, Wright said.

“On Sept. 16, some 72 companies graduated from that program,” Wright said. “Now they are receiving one-on-one digital marketing assistance from Anvil Media.”

For more information, call Wright at 503-507-8812 or email wrighcor@gmail.com.

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

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