OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS FOR WALLOWA COUNTY BUSINESSES

June 26, 2002 11:00 pm
GRANTED: Jack Walker and son Damon, 5, display the stump grinder a grant from Northeast Oregon Alliance helped purchase. (The Observer/GARY FLETCHER).
GRANTED: Jack Walker and son Damon, 5, display the stump grinder a grant from Northeast Oregon Alliance helped purchase. (The Observer/GARY FLETCHER).

By Gary Fletcher

Observer Staff Writer

ENTERPRISE — Three businesses and three governmental units in Wallowa County will receive a total of $94,490 in lottery funds to attract and expand businesses and create jobs.

Stewart Springs, a relatively new Joseph company, will receive a $38,990 Opportunity Fund grant from the Northeast Oregon Alliance to purchase an expensive computer program, computers and equipment. This will enable the company to add one employee.

Tony Gross of Joseph was hired as a draftsman, the company's second employee in addition to the owners, Christopher and Janelle Lewis.

The company is hoping to hire another draftsperson immediately and a third later. Within three years, plans are to have 10 employees besides the owners, Janelle Stewart said.

Stewart Springs is a steel detailing business that uses computer-aided drafting. When a general architect designs a building in a distant city, he could contract to them interior components such as divider walls, stairs and railings.

The Stewarts and their two small children moved to Joseph last April. Within a year Janelle, in a joint venture with Valley Bronze of Joseph, won a $1.7 million contract to cast and install elements of the new World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.

Another year-old Joseph company, Executive Tree Care, added a part-time position to its three-person operation after getting an $11,000 grant. Owners Jack and Danyel Walker are already reaping the benefits of having the only low-impact stump grinder in Union and Wallowa counties that goes through a 36-inch gate. The hydraulically driven carbide-tooth wheel sweeps back and forth to devour any size stump to one foot below the surface and fill the hole with mulch.

A new company in Enterprise, Timber Bronze, casts bronze fixtures such as towel racks, drawer pulls and switch plate covers.

It will expand, purchase equipment and upgrade its showroom, thanks to a $10,000 grant.

If David Weaver's business continues to grow, it is expected that other people may be hired to produce wax models, from which molds are made.

Wallowa County gets $30,000 to complete its January 1998 industrial site inventory and update it to an electronic format to be accessed on the Internet.

It will identify potential industrial development sites and compile a data base of information for businesses planning to relocate.

The Northeast Oregon Economic Development District will get $2,500 to help develop a lone eagle business recruitment for Wallowa County.

This is designed to help expand and diversify the local economy with new businesses similar to those above. All three received free, confidential help from Myron Kirkpatrick of Wallowa County Business Facilitation.

"We wouldn't have known to apply for the grants if it hadn't been for Myron," Jack Walker said.

"He must have spent 25 hours with us," Danyel Walker said.

The Enterprise City Library gets $2,000 to upgrade wiring to accommodate new computer services provided through other grants.

Eastern Oregon Net Inc. of La Grande will receive $13,510 of its requested $100,000, said Sara Miller, program manager for the Opportunity Funds.

John Attila, EONI marketing director, said the company would use the money to purchase different kinds of equipment to enhance the company's wireless service.

"We haven't narrowed it down to exactly what equipment we will buy," he said.

EONI started its wireless service about nine months ago, Attila said.

All the recipients are required to invest an equal amount of matching funds.

The money is part of $330,000 awarded by the Alliance to 11 projects in Umatilla, Union and Wallowa Counties.

Applications were received for 23 projects in the three counties totalling $1,296,985. Limited funds made for difficult choices.

"It is unfortunate that because of broader policy issues at the state level, revenues were not sufficient to cover all of the economic development needs for which the Regional Investment Program was initially conceived," said board member Kim Puzey, a Port of Umatilla director.

"Nonetheless, I'm confident that the projects that were funded are viable and necessary and will contribute substantially to their respective local economies," Puzey said.