POSTED: Tuesday, May 24, 2010 at 09:10 AM PT
BY: RICHARD JONES
Portland, OR — The economic climate got a bit brighter for women- and minority-owned green businesses as two funding operations joined hands last week. The Northwest Environmental and Self-Reliance Trust — NEST — approved the Albina Opportunities Corporation — AOC — as a working partner in providing loans to small businesses working to reduce greenhouse gasses. NEST has agreed to use AOC to invest its funds, up to $500,000, for these community businesses.
NEST administers the Green Revolving Loan Fund which is dedicated to investment in sustainable business practices and creative entrepreneurship to reduce what are commonly called “greenhouse gasses.”
NEST representative Linda Williams said that while they had experience making grants, they needed another firm to provide lending expertise. AOC not only had that expertise, but shares the same values and mission.
“Certain communities and certain green business ideas have previously not been able to access financing, but AOC and the Green Revolving Loan Fund are both working on these overlooked, underserved areas,” Williams said.
Dan Meek, an attorney who achieved a settlement leading to the creation of the loan fund, pointed out that “Successful ventures would repay and return out loan funds. That helps people build better lives, moves towards a sustainable economy and a healthier, sustainable environment.”
An environmental activists’ 1994 law suit against a Northwest gas-fired generating plant resulted in a settlement trust fund exceeding one million dollars to be directed to habitat restoration and reduction of what are commonly called “greenhouse gasses.” Some grants went to nonprofits providing solar cookers in West Africa and efficient lighting for cooperative ventures in Vietnam.
In 2004, NEST received a grant to administer a “Green Revolving Loan Fund” to help fund green companies and projects. Last week, AOC’s Board Chairman Mark Kalenscher and its Executive Director Terry Brandt met with Meek of NEST. The session resulted in signing an agreement that has been in development for more than a year.
AOC is dedicated to helping small, under-banked successful women- and minority-owned businesses to obtain access to capital.
Some of Portland’s brightest young entrepreneurs have received a hand upward from AOC. Businesses include contractors, infrastructure providers, food cart services and therapeutic health operations.
On the horizon, Brandt expects to provide financing for charter schools, fruit and vegetable producers, and companies that manufacture sustainable wood products. And that, he promises, is just the beginning.