After only six weeks on the job, new Oregon RAIN venture catalyst Corey Wright has already identified 16 potential entrepreneurs that want to do business in one of eight small communities in Linn and Benton counties.

Wright and Oregon RAIN (Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network) director Caroline Cummings updated Linn County Commissioners Roger Nyquist and Will Tucker about the program and asked for $50,000 in funding for the next budget biennium.

State funded, RAIN’s goals are to build entrepreneurial ecosystems, advance start-up activities and find capital to assist entrepreneurs who might be operating out of their homes to move into full-fledged Main Street operations.

Wright was hired through the Business Oregon Rural Opportunities Initiative to work specifically with the communities of Adair Village, Brownsville, Halsey, Harrisburg, Lebanon, Monroe, Philomath and Sweet Home.

The program has a $240,000 two-year budget. Funding came from Business Oregon, the eight participating communities based on their populations, Benton County, the Ford Family Foundation and Oregon RAIN.

There were 35 applicants from across the country.

Wright is an Oregon State University graduate and founded Massif Games, which produces 3D products and accessories for video gamers around the world.

Wright said the entrepreneurs are working on everything from wholesaling safety equipment to creating a device that helps make dusting homes and offices easier and faster.

Wright said his job is working with companies in both the traded sector — goods and services that can be sold outside of the state — and pre-traded businesses that have products that could be developed and or sold outside of the state.

“For example, a pre-traded business might be a local restaurant that makes and serves its own special jam that everyone loves,” Wright said. “That jam might easily be packaged and sold around the country.”

Wright said the eight participating communities are excited about the opportunity to develop local businesses.

“They think it’s good to bring businesses into their communities, but if the businesses are homegrown, they might not leave or close when the economy turns downward,” Wright said. “Locally grown businesses might provide a bit more stability.”

Wright said his job duties include identifying and working with entrepreneurs and stakeholders, educating potential companies, identifying and training angel investors, finding business mentors and locating various sources of capital.

“I also do a lot of asset mapping,” Wright said. “I figure out what types of resources are available and what doesn’t exist, that might be used by local entrepreneurs. Let’s say there are several people in Brownsville making specialty food products in their homes. Is there a local commercial kitchen with whom they could contract to expand their production capabilities?”

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Wright said 37 persons attended a recent program kick-off event at Halsey.

Wright said he would like to speak with anyone interested in local business ventures — from entrepreneurs to potential investors. He may be contacted by calling 503-507-8812 or email: corey@oregonrain.org.

In addition to Wright, Brad Attig was hired as the Linn-Benton Funding Catalyst. His position entails helping start-up companies secure alternative funding resources.

Selection committee members were Gary Marks and Walt Wendolowski of Lebanon, Brian Latta of Harrisburg, Hillary Norton of Halsey and Cummings.

“I am excited about this effort,” said Latta, who is the Harrisburg city manager. “Small cities like ours all want economic development, but we were so many hats, that is difficult to do. We’ve already seen actions taking place. It helps that Linn County is business friendly.”

Marks, Lebanons city manager, said that Linn County and the city of Lebanon have a long history of working together on economic development projects.

“This will help push the ball forward,” Marks said. “The entrepreneurs are here. They just need resources and expertise to grow in our communities.”

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