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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Portland Development Commission offers flimsy aid to firms following the latest fads

Oregon is a funny place. If your business surfs the latest fads of buzzwords like green, sustainable, or (our faddishly favorite) clean-tech, you'll find politicians playing an economic version of What-would-you-do-for-a-Klondike-Bar?

Problem is, Oregon's efforts to boost business are half-hearted at best. Even worse, they come with so many strings attached that even a marionette would run screaming for Idaho.

The Portland Business Journal reports that latest massively misguided effort comes from the Portland Development Commission, the city’s economic development arm. The PDC has launched a program that it hopes will help small businesses create jobs. But, the program is limited only to those businesses that will satisfy the mayor's fondness for "clean-tech," or green, jobs.

The program is called the Small Contractors Loan Insurance Program (pdf) and it helps businesses obtain a revolving line of credit. As such, the PDC recognizes that there is substantial financial risk to the city involved. For businesses seeking the loans, there are some strings attached ...

Businesses must meet minimum qualifications, including:
  • Pay prevailing wage or 180% of state minimum wage, whichever is higher;
  • Be Home Performance with Energy Star Building Performance Institute-certified; and
  • Hire new worker/installer weatherization employees from a qualified weatherization training program.
Businesses get bonus points if they have a track record of hiring or retaining underserved populations, or a detailed plan for welcoming diversity in their workplace.

And some more strings ...

Workers must come from "qualified training programs" such as those that:
  • Provide weatherization training using curriculum developed by an accredited organization to meet United States Department of Energy standards and any additional specifications and standards designated by the Oregon Department of Energy and Energy Trust;
  • Have at least three defined partnerships with state recognized pre-apprenticeship programs or signatory community organizations that serve historically disadvantaged or underrepresented populations, including women, and people of color; and
  • Offer mentoring, follow-up monitoring and/or other support to assure retention of participants in the program and in weatherization careers.
All that for a glorified credit card!

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