Multnomah County unveils new microloan program for small businesses, commercial centers

October 21, 2011

Multnomah County will provide innovative financial support and other help to small businesses and commercial centers throughout the county to assist them through the economic recession.

Earlier this week, County Chair Jeff Cogen unveiled a new county-wide microloan program to boost economic growth and neighborhood prosperity. The county program will leverage $150,000 of county funds to generate close to $1 million in loans from expert microlenders to support county businesses and the jobs they create.

Cogen shared the news at the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization office during a joint event with the City of Portland and the Portland Development Commission. Microloans will help many people, particularly immigrants and people of color, who frequently face extra hurdles in securing small loans for their businesses, Cogen said.

“The microlending program provides desperately needed assistance to people who, with just a little bit of help, are able to support themselves through their own businesses,” Cogen said.

The microloan program will go beyond just a financial exchange. Microlenders have a particularly strong commitment to helping borrowers succeed because, unlike traditional lenders that can rely on collateral such as a borrower’s home, borrowers from microlenders frequently don’t have such assets.

As a result, the microlender program partners will also provide technical assistance and services that maximize the chance for the businesses to succeed and to repay the loan. The microloan is often the first step in building a strong credit history that helps small businesses access additional resources from larger financial institutions.

Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith, who championed the program, was instrumental in advocating for economic development focusing on the local community shops that county residents embrace and value.

In May, Commissioner Smith convened a roundtable of 14 young entrepreneurs to discuss the challenges of leading their small businesses, ranging from food carts and home design to smart phone apps. A recurring theme from these business owners was the challenges of securing the necessary capital to start or expand a business and navigating the world of bank loans.

“Everyone acknowledges that small businesses have a huge role to play in creating jobs and lifting us out of the current economic downturn,” said John Tydlaska, county economic development director. “And they are equally important when it comes to ensuring that economic benefits flow to all county residents.

“A key goal of our microlending program is to relieve small business owners from the constant and frequently futile search for capital,” he said, “so that they can focus their attention on creating and running a prosperous business.”

The county has begun the process of hiring microlenders to begin providing these services to county residents within the next several months.

The City of Portland and the Portland Development Commission also announced two new economic development programs that will infuse support and resources into small businesses and select business districts.

For more information:

John Tydlaska, Economic Development Director, 503-988-6277,