There are roughly 250 businesses registered in the 97303 zip code according to the Oregon Secretary of State. Only nine of them will be selected to receive $5,000 grants the city plans to offer to assist local business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At its meeting Monday, April 20, the Keizer City Council approved a plan to disburse $45,000 in economic development funds it is receiving from Marion County as grants to support small businesses in the city. The plan is akin to the payroll protection loans being offered federally by the Small Business Administration.
The process for applying for the grants and the qualifications for eligible businesses are still being hashed out by city officials.
City Manager Chris Eppley said offering the grants was one of a number of possibilities, but it quickly rose to the top of the list as city staff discussed how to use the money.
“It won’t go a long way but it will help nine small businesses. The best use of these funds would be to get them back out into the community as soon as possible. Instead of creating jobs we want to maintain jobs,” Eppley said.
In January, prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States and massive economic shutdowns, the city agreed to accept $15,000 a year from Marion County over the next three years. Part of the agreement was determining how the money, which is coming from the Oregon Lottery, would be used. Numerous possibilities were mentioned, but all fell to the wayside in the wake of COVID-19’s spread.
“There was no doubt in my mind that this was the best use for these resources. We know that it is (business) retention and growth here at home that has the most impact,” said Mayor Cathy Clark.
Eppley said the hard part would be getting the word out once the program parameters are established. He said the Keizer Chamber of Commerce would likely be a main outlet and floated the possibility of having the Chamber involved in deciding which businesses receive grants.
Councilor Roland Herrera cautioned against relying too heavily on the Chamber of Commerce. “The Chamber does not represent all businesses in Keizer,” Herrera said.
Clark said that the city would also reach out to the Latino Business Alliance and its members when the program stands up.
Councilor Dan Kohler appeared troubled at the prospect of selecting nine businesses for the grants out of the hundreds that might qualify, but supported the action.
“It’s not much, but I consider it a good start,” said Herrera.
Potential projects that lost out included: prepping city-owned properties to be placed on the market for lease; development and support of sports facilities; revitalization of public investment projects, installation of a food truck pod on city-owned property; and paying consultants to advise the city on creation of an urban renewal district or expand Keizer’s urban growth boundary for employment land.