The La Grande Urban Renewal Agency will not be funding an entrepreneur pilot program without seeing more information first.

The agency voted Wednesday not to give $60,000 for the IGNITE E-Center program, which is designed to provide networking and resources to entrepreneurs to help them get their businesses running.

La Grande’s economic development director, Christine Jarski, and Northeast Oregon Economic Development District Executive Director Lisa Dawson requested the funding from the agency for improvements to the Eastern Oregon Fire Museum building, to house the pilot program.

Jarski said La Grande has been selected as one of four pilot communities for the IGNITE E-Center program. Once the center is established, three people, including Dawson and Jarski, would man the office.

The $60,000, according to council documents, would go toward improvements like electrical work, plumbing, converting bathrooms to ADA compliance, new floors, paint and taking down partition walls.

URA board member and La Grande City Councilor Nicole Howard voiced concern about the perception of the request. She said it doesn’t look good that the city is asking for funding from the URA — a city agency — to help a city-owned building. She also asked to see a business plan.

Jarski said they didn’t yet have a business plan and noted that the URA doesn’t ask for business plans during the annual call for projects.

Agency Manager Robert Strope said the request does fit within the URA standards for funding. The updates, he added, would be a permanent investment in the city-owned building.

See complete story in Friday's Observer