PORT ANGELES – Efforts are underway in Clallam County to mirror a Jefferson County business loan program that matches community-minded investors with entrepreneurs looking for loans too small for most banks can grant them.
Marc Abshire, executive director of the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce, last week outlined the Clallam Opportunity Investment Network (COIN) via Zoom to attendees of the Economic Development Council’s weekly “Coffee with Colleen” program series.
Investor-borrower programs are known as Local Investment Networks (LIN). The first in Washington State was established in 2006 in Port Townsend as the Local Investing Opportunities Network (LION), a successful company.
The Clallam County program will be managed by the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce.
COIN and LION are regulated under the Securities and Exchange Commission “Friends and Family” provisions which exempt borrowers and lenders from certain reporting restrictions.
“The hope is that they get more than just financial support,” Abshire said on Friday of the investor-borrower link.
“They’ve got investors who are interested in their success and will do things that support them beyond funding, that they’ll be able to promote them and give advice and all of those things, that there is basically a relationship between the borrower and the investor, [that it’s] a symbiosis, ”said Abshire.
“The lender is a resident of the community who is a stakeholder in the community, and that’s why they do it. This is what the program is based on.
Abshire said banking institutions typically don’t give loans for amounts less than $ 25,000 and often require larger amounts to lend money. This forces business owners to borrow large amounts on their credit cards.
Today with 68 members, LION has made at least 276 loans totaling more than $ 9.4 million to more than 80 businesses and nonprofits, said Brian Kuh, executive director of EDC Team Jefferson, who administers the program on a voluntary basis.
Kuh said the totals are based on voluntary responses to member surveys.
Ninety-four percent of the investments were loans with an average term of 5.3 years and 5.2 percent interest.
The median invested is $ 28,575, although the amounts ranged from $ 1,000 to $ 2.2 million, he said.
Kuh is a member of LION. As a resident of Clallam County he is also in COIN.
“It’s just a twinning group and a mailing list,” he said on Friday. “He doesn’t give legal advice to other investors. It’s just a network through which local investment opportunities can be shared with interested parties.
Kuh said LIN loans usually do not include a guarantee as a condition.
“There is a promissory note, and there is money donated that allows people to start businesses that are in the early stages of building their wealth,” according to a 4.5-minute video describing the program on the LION website, jeffersonlion.net.
The video features LION founder and current Port Townsend Mayor Michelle Sandoval, market owners Aldrich Christa and Yos Ligtenberg, and LION investors Fran and Dan Post, who helped save the historic and highly regarded store from the closing in 2020.
Abshire told the EDC meeting on Wednesday that COIN investors decide what interest rate they will charge.
“It really depends on what investors are really prepared to risk,” Abshire said.
“The COIN entrepreneurs that we will be offering to COIN investors will have already done a lot of mentoring and a lot of work to develop a business plan that can be successful, and so a really important part of COIN is the work done by Rick Dickinson and the Center. for Inclusive Entrepreneurship.
The center has offices in Port Angeles, Seattle and Mount Vernon and serves Clallam, Jefferson, Skagit and Island counties.
“Newly started in the blocks, our COIN attendees can rest assured that they won’t be watching presentations from unverified contractors,” said Abshire.
He said on Friday that he expects the average loan to be around $ 10,000, but expects it to be between $ 2,000 and $ 25,000, a prohibitive amount for someone who cannot get a bank loan and has to turn to a credit card due to limited need. a lot of money.
Business owners will submit a business plan to COIN and will not ask for specific amounts, Abshire said on Friday. Multi-party presentations can be included.
“They can’t say, ‘I’m looking for a loan from one of you guys,’ Abshire said.
“They’ll say, here’s a five-year plan, and in three years I’ll need capital.” It will be one of those kinds of things.
Abshire said an attempt was made around 2014 or 2015 to start a LIN in County Clallam.
The chamber has been working since 2019 to get it started, but it has been cut short by the pandemic, he said.
Partners include Craft3, Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship, North Olympic Development Center, Clallam County EDC, EDC Jefferson Team and LION.
“With many success stories, like Finnriver Farm & Cidery, LION is widely regarded as the ‘gold standard’ by local investment networks across the country,” Abshire said in a text message.
The Association of Washington Cities worked with the Washington State University Metropolitan Center for Applied Research & Extension to support local investment networks statewide.
AWC and WSU have produced a field guide and educational videos on LINs, said Andy Meyer, AWC Special Projects Coordinator, former Clallam County Planning Director.
He said on Friday that there were about six LINs established in the state and about six more ongoing.
“He needs a local champion, so I’m glad the chamber has decided that this is something, with the North Olympic Development Council, that it is something that can fly,” said Meyer.
The success of the program depends on the due diligence of each business owner and lender.
“They really should have legal and financial advice from both sides,” Meyer said.
Contracts between borrowers and lenders can be highly personalized, until investors are paid in a currency other than dollars, he added, noting that cheese was enough for a LION transaction.
“What goes a long way in making sure things stay in the right place is a business owner trying to do something in the community and a lender investing in the community, and the relationship between these two people. that you would like to see work. “Meyer said.
“This community investment is a big part of it. ”
Senior Editor Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].
Terry Ward, editor of the Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum, sits on the board of directors of the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce and is vice chairman of the board of Economic Development Corp.