2023-2025 Rural Opportunity Initiative Grant Program (Oregon)
Oregon Business Development Department
October 27, 2023
City or township governments, Nonprofits, For-profit organizations other than small businesses, State governments
The Oregon Business Development Department (“Business Oregon”) is pleased to announce a Request for Grant Applications (RFGA) for the 2023-2025 ROI Grant Program (Program).
Donor Name: Oregon Business Development Department
County: All Counties
Type of Grant: Grant
Size of the Grant:
Launch: $60,000 – $120,000
Scale: $100,000 – $150,000
The ROI Program is Business Oregon’s strategic effort to empower rural communities to support entrepreneurs and small business growth. Through financial support, innovative partnerships, network expansion, and access to business development resources, ROI helps strengthen and consolidate entrepreneurial ecosystems within and across Oregon’s rural communities, with a particular emphasis on diverse populations and low-income people.
At its core, ROI is designed to create an economy that works for all Oregonians. It is inclusive and community-driven, empowering local leaders to define and implement collaborative strategies that elevate the role of entrepreneurship in rural economic development, enabling entrepreneurs to create place-based enterprises that in turn buoy local economies. In lieu of a ‘one size fits all’ approach with specific objectives to which each community must align, ROI reflects community priorities and acknowledges that the best people to determine the right approach for a community are the residents themselves.
Small businesses and entrepreneurs drive rural economies and are a major source of opportunity for growth in rural communities. In addition to supporting entrepreneurship and small business growth, ROI’s emphasis on cultivating a healthy ecosystem helps build resiliency and makes businesses more likely to survive a crisis by having access to the full complement of integrated resources. In short, by focusing on ecosystem development, ROI helps entrepreneurs thrive in the good times and recover following disruptions.
Ultimately, ROI is an investment in the vision and aptitude of rural communities and aligns with Business Oregon’s strategic plan to innovate, grow local businesses, cultivate rural economic stability, and champion opportunity for underrepresented people.
Business Oregon recognizes that entrepreneurial ecosystem building occurs in stages and that communities are at various points along the spectrum. Some may have just encountered the approach as an economic development tool while others are five or more years into the development of their ecosystem and are working on projects that reflect local entrepreneurial needs and conditions. The stage is less important than a commitment to the model, and ROI includes enough flexibility to support communities along their journey – from entry to exit.
The ROI Program is designed with a recognition that building an ecosystem is a long-term endeavor that requires consistent support in the form of funds and capacity, but it also accepts the need for an off-ramp for successful communities.
Concept ($30,000-$70,000 award range)
Concept communities are in the early stages of identifying entrepreneurism as a viable long-term solution to the economic and social health of their community and want to be intentional about building an ecosystem to support it.
A general concept has emerged for supporting entrepreneurs that has stakeholder input but needs greater buy-in from additional partners.
Roles within the ecosystem are emerging but a lack of coordination and cohesiveness often results in gaps or redundancy among resources and providers.
Concept communities are eager to assess their ecosystem to gather actionable information (data) to inform their work – identifying strengths, weaknesses, and local assets.
Although there may not be a strong entrepreneurial culture, leaders are committed to changing that.
Entrepreneurial resources exist but are disjointed or in competition, making access cumbersome and time consuming for entrepreneurs, who may lack a network of like-minded people.
Concept communities are starting small but thinking big about what they can do and how they will do it.
Launch ($60,000 – $120,000 award range)
Launch communities have fully vetted their concept and established the basic human infrastructure necessary to support the ecosystem. They are ready to grow in all respects – visibility, capacity, cohesiveness – but are likely to need additional staff or resources to get their project off the ground.
Ecosystem building efforts are informed by data and assessments (qualitative and quantitative) and correspond to the community’s identity, existing assets, and entrepreneurial needs.
Stakeholders are well defined, and the group has grown in number and influence as well as become more inclusive.
Launch communities have generated buzz and attracted the attention of local political leaders who can drive systemic change and will be key in sustaining the work long term.
A culture of entrepreneurism is emerging and entrepreneurs themselves are typically able to find the resources they need, although silos and gaps may persist, especially around capital access.
Launch communities are poised to establish functioning ecosystems and are capable of undertaking a sophisticated project to support entrepreneurship.
Scale ($100,000 – $150,000 award range)
Scale communities have significant and measurable momentum and are ready to maximize their potential.
They have a history of successful, collaborative, visible work within their community and beyond.
A major investment would solidify the foundation of their ecosystem and propel them towards sustainability.
Scale communities have increased and integrated entrepreneur support services, developed thriving networks, and established a stable of mentors.
They have generated support from local policy makers, developed a culture favorable to entrepreneurship, and built an organizational structure that is improvement driven, adaptable, and capable of withstanding staff changes.
Connections with the K-12 system, local colleges, and workforce development are active and contributing to a pipeline of future entrepreneurs.
Local industries have taken notice and are engaging in the promotion and sustainability of the ecosystem.
Entrepreneurs have increased access to capital, talent, and resources; they are seen as an asset to the economy and culture of the community and able to wield their influence to support public policies that favor further small business growth.
Scale communities have diverse funding streams, a clear place-based identity and are proposing to undertake a growth project that reflects a broad consensus.
ROI is a fund to support collaborative work. Applicants must be applying on behalf of three or more total partners, including the applicant.
Applications must designate a ‘lead applicant,’ who will be responsible for receiving, managing, and reporting on grant-funded activities and expenditures.
The lead applicant must be a legal entity of Oregon. This includes entities registered to provide services in Oregon, nonprofits, and political sub-units.
Eligible lead applicants are limited to:
501(c) (3) nonprofit entities,
government agencies, and
The lead applicant must be based in a rural area and proposed activities must benefit that rural area but may also benefit adjacent rural areas. Business Oregon defines rural as it is defined by ORS 285A.010 (14), which states, “Rural area means an area located entirely outside of the acknowledged Portland Metropolitan Area Regional Urban Growth Boundary and the acknowledged urban growth boundaries of cities with populations of 30,000 or more.”
For-profit businesses are not eligible to be lead applicants.
In addition to collaborating with other partners, eligible applicants must be proposing to work on improving the entrepreneurial ecosystem in support of entrepreneurs, small businesses, and the organizations that serve them.
For more information, visit OBDD.