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Local residents interested in forming a State Bank of Oregon have scheduled a public forum on the proposal for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the CoHo Ecovillage Common House, 1975 S.E. Crystal Lake Drive. Those who support the idea of a State Bank of Oregon think it could help to revive the state’s economy.

Bills being considered at House and Senate hearings on Wednesday in Salem would establish how a “virtual bank,” as described in State Treasurer Ted Wheeler’s recent endorsement, would function as a banker’s bank. It could enable community banks to extend credit to worthy, cash-strapped small businesses, start up entrepreneurs and family farmers currently being denied the opportunity to expand at this critical juncture in the economic recovery.

As Oregon has lost 148,600 jobs and nearly 100 family farms, Bank of America has reduced the number of its low-interest, Small Business Administration loans by 92 percent, according to the draft of a non-partisan, non-profit public policy center study to be released later this week. During that same down economic period, the Bank of North Dakota increased its lending to farms and businesses by 35 percent, forum organizers contend.

“I am learning that a state bank fashioned after the successful Bank of North Dakota can do for Oregon’s economy what it’s done for the economy of their state by helping it sail through the economic crisis in relative flying colors and recover from the disastrous 2007 flooding,” said forum organizer Peter Erskine .

“The bills getting their initial screening before the Oregon State Legislature are a good first step toward establishing a state bank here. It will allow us to bring some state funds home that are currently being managed by the same too-big-to-fail banks that engineered the crisis in the first place and have sustained it with their restrictive new credit policies.”

Erskine is seeking community support from Corvallis because of the key roles to be played by state Sen. Frank Morse, who represents parts of Benton and Linn Counties and Rep. Sara Gelser, who represents Corvallis and Philomath.

Speakers invited to the forum include:

• Steve Hughes, the state Director of the Oregon Working Families Party, who will address the “virtual” state bank bill supported by Treasurer Ted Wheeler as well as the history of the Oregon State Bank campaign.

• Rebecca Landis, the director of Corvallis-Albany Farmers’ Markets, and the newly elected president of the Oregon Farmers’ Markets Association. Landis will give examples of problems obtaining credit for business ventures.

• Dan Lombardi, Coalition Coordinator of the Main Street Alliance of Oregon, who will present results of a recent survey documenting unmet needs of small businesses around the state, and the support for an Oregon State Bank by small business owners.

The forum will be preceded by a vegetarian, peanut-free potluck starting at 6 p.m. Parking is available on Alexander, south of the Ecovillage. For more information, call Erskine at 310-663-4442 or John Ross at 541-760-4444.

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