New Program Seeks To Pair Entrepreneurs With Local Business Investors

Hayley Day The Daily News, Longview, Wash.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) "Local Investment Networks" are popping up around Washington State. The platform provides an opportunity to bring residents of a community together around a common goal: to build wealth by keeping local capital rooted in the local economy.

Longview

A new regional initiative seeks to give entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their ideas to local business investors, similar to the hit ABC TV show "Shark Tank."

The Lower Columbia Investment Network matches business owners seeking money and resources with neighboring investors interested in growing their community and profits.

The partnership helps business owners who can't borrow money through a bank due to deterrents like low credit scores.

When businesses succeed, investors see their communities and pocketbooks prosper, said Cowlitz Economic Development Council Board Member Mike Karnofski.

"A lot of local investors I know are interested in keeping businesses in the community," he said. "On the other hand no one would make an investment where they thought they would lose money."

Karnofski said three Kalama businesses have joined the network and 14 businesses in Longview, Kelso and Castle Rock have expressed interest. Investors have not yet been identified, as no matches have been made thus far.

Karnofski, who is also a Kelso city councilman, said the network aims to hold a virtual pitch event by June.

Karnofski compared pitching to "speed dating."

He said there are no size or financial requirements to join the network either as a business or investor.

He said investors could offer to provide grants or loans. They could also provide capital in return for a percentage of the company to build equity or negotiate a trade, like providing funds in exchange for free meals.

Karnofski said negotiations would be held in private.

Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Council of Governments Executive Director Bill Fashing said private investment has occurred in the area for years.

"It's a word-of-mouth process," he said. "Everyone in town knows a person or two, and eventually you have pretty large group interested in the concept."

There are about five Local Community Networks in the state. A network in Methow Valley in northeast Washington has funded nine businesses and invested $1.5 million on the local economy since it launched in 2017, according to the state.

The initiative is guided by the Washington State University Metropolitan Center for Applied Research and Extension and the Association of Washington Cities.

The Cowlitz County Economic Development Council and the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Council of Governments have spearheaded the local initiative since 2019. The network was scheduled to launch in early 2020 but was put on hold due to the pandemic.

Karnofski said he also is working with the Lower Columbia College to create short- and long-term business classes to help entrepreneurs learn to pitch ideas to investors, as well as other general business tools like record-keeping, marketing and contract negotiations.

To join the network as a business or an investor, visit www.cwcog.org/economic/economic-plans-projects. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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