June 25, 2001 11:00 pm

By The Observer

The Starr Farms $79,000 grant was the largest awarded by the Northeast Oregon Alliance after interviewing applicants from three counties over the last several weeks.

The Starr Trak project has incredible potential in the region and beyond, said Kim Puzey, Alliance board member who sat in on the interviews in Union, Wallowa and Umatilla counties.

The patented traction belt is designed to eliminate heavy tracking on center-pivot irrigation systems.

The grant is to help the owners purchase equipment needed to increase production at their facility near Summerville.

The only other Union County project funded from among the 27 applicants seeking part of the $195,000 in lottery funds went to the North Powder School District. The school construction class has almost completed a building to house a fifth-grade classroom and community health services. The grant was for $7,500.

Projects receiving grants: (for business expansion, unless noted otherwise):

1. $16,250, Blue Mountain Growers, Inc., Umatilla County.

2. $24,6874, Doherty Welding, LLC., Umatilla County.

3. $24, 675, Eastern Oregon Machine, LLC., Umatilla County.

4. $30,000, Epha, Inc., Umatilla County.

5. $7,500 for classroom construction, North Powder School Dist. 8J, Union County.

6. $79,000 business start up for Starr Farms, Union County.

7. $5,000 for relocation, Fishtrap, Wallowa County.

8. $2,700, Denise Kuppinger, Wallowa County.

9. $2,500, Gretchen Piper, Wallowa County.

10. $2,400, Leslie Sherwin, Wallowa County.

related story


By Gary Fletcher

Observer Staff Writer

JOSEPH Three Wallowa County in-home sewing contractors have been awarded business expansion grants from the Northeast Oregon Alliance.

The lottery fund grants, ranging from $2,400 to $2,700 each, will allow Denise Kuppinger, Gretchen Piper and Leslie Sherwin to buy commercial sewing machines.

The trio does contract sewing for Wolfe Fleece of Joseph, which this year doubled the number of home-based contract-sewers to eight.

The 3-year-old business is expanding into Internet and catalog sales, thanks in part to an earlier matching grant from the Alliance.

Wolfe Fleeces story fascinates visitors, said Sara Miller, economic development specialist for the Alliance, which administers the grants.

Customers like the Wolfe Fleece products and are pleasantly surprised to meet the people who made them or even the entrepreneurial Deve Wolfe, who grew up in Wallowa County, Miller said.

Patrons return home with a stylish and functional souvenir that is a connection to this beautiful place, Miller said. She said it was natural for Internet and catalog sales to multiply from these same people who later want to buy gifts and retell the story of the local trademark.

In Enterprise, Fishtraps relocation to the Coffin House, received a grant of $5,000 from the Alliance.

In Umatilla County, Blue Mountain Growers will get a $16,250 grant for a grading and packaging line for fresh-pack Rainier cherries.

More than $1 million was requested by the 27 applicants, who were interviewed by the Alliance over the last few weeks. Ten received grants totalling $195,000.

The programs goal is to stimulate job creation, diversify industry and promote community development within the three counties.