Oregon RAIN, a partnership of local government, business and higher education leaders, is expanding its job accelerator program in rural Lane County.
The nonprofit this month received a $100,000 grant from the Ford Family Foundation and a $50,000 match from Lane County. The organization plans to invest those funds in the “startup weekends” that the Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network (RAIN) hosts to partner entrepreneurs and startups with established business owners and other mentors.
More than 50 entrepreneurs and mentors participated in a Florence startup weekend in July, Oregon RAIN spokesman Matt Hollander said, the first event of its kind officials are aware of on the coast.
“Startup weekends are very popular in more populated urban ecosystems,” Hollander said. “RAIN Eugene has hosted a bunch, but as far as we know it was only such event on the Oregon coast.”
RAIN also hopes to bring startup events to communities like Oakridge, Dexter and Lowell, as well as rural Linn and Benton counties, he said.
Founded in 2013 and funded by the state Legislature, Oregon RAIN seeks to spur innovative startup companies in the Eugene and Corvallis areas, and his since expanded to cover more of the south Willamette Valley and Florence areas.
Oregon RAIN’s Rural Venture Catalyst program has assisted 214 companies and created 285 jobs, according to data from the nonprofit. Those companies have created 285 jobs since 2015, generating $2.7 million in capital and $8.4 million after completing its programs.
Since July 2017 the organization has raised $407,000 for its Rural Venture Catalyst programs, including $30,000 from the city of Florence, $5,000 from Florence-based Oregon Pacific Bank $42,000 from the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network.
Established business leaders play a key role in RAIN’s rural development efforts, Hollander said. More than 200 mentors and dozens of investors have assisted those rural entrepreneurs since 2015.
“Entrepreneurs have been there and done that,” Hollander said. “They can help (startups) guide their process, from refining their idea or identifying potential resources to help them move their idea forward.”