February 18, 2003 11:00 pm
COMPANY AWARDED GRANT: Kni-Co's Rob Burns of Wallowa crimps a stove pipe. The company makes camp stoves, primarily for Cabela's catalogue. (The Observer/GARY FLETCHER).
COMPANY AWARDED GRANT: Kni-Co's Rob Burns of Wallowa crimps a stove pipe. The company makes camp stoves, primarily for Cabela's catalogue. (The Observer/GARY FLETCHER).

By Ray Linker

Observer Staff Writer

Five private businesses and seven non-profit organizations were among those groups that received grants recently from the Northeast Oregon Alliance.

In all, 17 projects were funded for a total of $648,572 in state lottery funds administered by the regional alliance that serves Union, Wallowa and Baker counties. The funds are called Opportunity Funds and Multi-Region Grants.

The grants are designed to help create new businesses, new jobs, expand loan programs for regional businesses and to support tourism and agricultural industries in the region.

Six of the projects are described as multi-regional, not only benefiting the three major counties but other Eastern Oregon counties as well.

Kni-Co Manufacturing of Wallowa received a $72,000 grant, the full amount it requested. The company will provide a matching amount of $21,300.

Owned by Robert Burns for the past two years, the company plans to relocate in an industrial building in Wallowa, which will serve as a business incubator site.

The company makes camp stoves, primarily for Cabela's catalogue. The company is projected to grow over the next few years, but not a lot of additional employment is expected soon, said Lisa Lang of Northeast Oregon Alliance.

"Without the Alliance funding, we wouldn't have been able to expand as planned in the future," Burns said.

Part of the grant was used to purchase a new powder coating machine. It bakes on a hard, super strong painted finish. It's high-impact resistant colors will not fade, Burns said.

Kni-Co bakes the powder coat finish colors on it new computerized metal art pieces.

People have also brought in bumpers, exterior trailer steps and fence posts to be powder coated with non fading colors.

The largest award went to New Day Enterprises to set up a thrift store in La Grande. The non-profit received $75,000 of the $100,000 it requested. It has a cash match of $232,500.

Oregon Trail Beef received $70,000 for a beef marketing cooperative effort. The newly formed group will try direct marketing, with its main office in Ontario and a slaughterhouse in Nyssa. There are 30 members in Union and Wallowa counties, but membership in the co-op will be open to ranchers throughout Oregon.

The Port of Umatilla, which plans a cash match of $4.1 million (including $3.8 million from Congress), was awarded $70,000 for purchase and installation of a crane.

The Wallowa and Union County Railroad received a total of $40,000 for lobbying. It will be matched by $60,000 from the two counties.

Graffunder Safe of

La Grande requested $88,485 but received $65,072 for equipment purchase and expansion of its business. The company will match that amount with $48,750 of its own money.

Northeast Oregon Business Development, another name for the alliance, picked up $60,000 to set up a loan program for the three counties. The group hopes to match that with $540,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program.

L.D. Perry Inc. of Joseph, a general contracting company, received $40,000 for equipment purchase and business expansion. There has been a lot of demand for cabinets the company makes, so owners decided to establish a new company just to make cabinets. Owners are hoping to locate some land on which to erect a new building. The new company would be called Prairie Creek Cabinet.

Among the smaller awards was $10,000 for paving in downtown Elgin; $20,000 for installation of equipment at Omnicut, also in Elgin; and $10,000 for purchase and installation of equipment for the Joseph Airport Fueling Service.

Seventeen projects were not funded, as the requests totaled more than $1.2


Gary Fletcher contributed to this story.