In 2009, WSCAT won a Department of the Treasury grant to start a community development financial institution (CDFI) and small business loan fund. Since then, WSCAT, in the absence of a CTWS small business development center, has provided a place and space in which community members can discuss their business ideas, receive business education, participate in a credit counseling process, and network with other businesspeople. Between 2009 and 2012, WSCAT developed policies and procedures for operating this CDFI and provided a limited number of small business loans to community members. Though ultimately unsuccessful, the CDFI helped highlight the need for a small business loan fund in Warm Springs, and helped spawn the creation of the CTWS Private Business Revolving Loan (PBRL) Fund. The PBRL Fund exists to this day, providing significant capital to business owners in Warm Springs.
In 2012, WSCAT began providing a meeting place and an office for the Warm Springs Chamber of Commerce. That year WSCAT hired an enterprise facilitation expert, who worked for two years to encourage small business growth through business networking and the sharing of expertise between community members. Many aspiring and existing business owners worked with this individual, helping to strengthen the Warm Springs business community.
Since the spring of 2013, WSCAT has operated a Friday Outdoor Market, providing community members a place to sell locally made arts, crafts, value-added foods, and locally-grown fruit and vegetables. Though small, the market has grown each year, and promises to be a regular event in the future. Also in 2013, WSCAT began working with community members to assess their desire to develop an artisans’ cooperative. A 2014 survey of 49 community artisans, many of whom wish to be future cooperative members, indicates that there is a very strong interest in this idea. These efforts are ongoing and have resulted in WSCAT working with groups in the community to raise funds for a cooperative start-up project.
In 2014, WSCAT began working with the Central Oregon branch of the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), to provide mentorship and business advice to start-up entrepreneurs in the community. Since then, WSCAT has also worked with other partners, including the CTWS Vocational Rehabilitation Department, Tribal Credit Enterprise, ONABEN, and Native PTAC to provide Warm Springs community members with business planning assistance, access to small business loans, business management training, networking opportunities, and opportunities to be vendors at high-profile markets around Oregon.
WSCAT is currently working with community partners to expand the number of small business IDAs for Warm Springs tribal and community members and to start a small business incubator that could house 3-5 retail businesses and provide office space for up to 8 more small businesses. Please stay tuned for more information about these exciting endeavors that we hope will strengthen the Warm Springs business community for years to come.