In a symbolic whirlwind, on December 10, 2010, the Eastern Oregon University Small Business Development Center was called into action to revive an alternative wind energy venture that was on the verge of failure.
Known in Eastern Oregon as the Lime Wind Project, the SBDC was familiar with the exciting prospect of the federal government working with a small business owner, as the facility was to be constructed on federally owned land near Lime, Oregon. Lime Wind, LLC member Randy Joseph had spent nearly a decade diligently working to develop Oregon’s first locally owned, small scale windmill site. The project would consist of 6 rebuilt turbines capable of producing 7,800 megawatt hours of electricity annually.
Randy’s efforts had been extensive. Balancing numerous delays and postponements, he secured a necessary site permit from the Bureau of Land Management and financing from the United States Department of Energy, Oregon Department of Energy and the Seminole Company – a Florida based finance company. In addition, Randy had secured a highly competitive Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant from the United Department of Agriculture and a Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) with the State of Oregon.
All was ready to proceed…or at least Randy thought the project was ready to proceed.
Unfortunately, at the last minute, while reading his Letter of Commitment from the Seminole Company, Randy discovered he was short $400,000 of personal equity – a necessary requirement to close his construction loan. Moreover, the Oregon Department of Energy was becoming extremely uncomfortable with the number of delays the project had experienced and was requesting new financial information.
Randy knew he was in a bad position.
Adding to the stress, the Bureau of Land Management permit only allowed access to the federally protected site from July 1, 2011 thru November 30, 2011. To meet this deadline, turbines and towers had to be ordered by February 1st, shipped to the United States from Germany by April 1st and inspected and staged on site by June 30th. There simply was no room for further delay.
Exasperated, Randy contacted his commercial loan officer at Community Bank, Mr. Jeremy Gilpin, who referred Randy directly to the Eastern Oregon University Small Business Development Center.
“I knew what to do. We needed to contact Greg Smith at the Eastern Oregon University Small Business Development Center and get his help,” stated Gilpin.
So on December 10, 2010, the Eastern Oregon University Small Business Development Center met with Randy and Jeremy. A plan was outlined to make it possible to meet the February 1, 2011 deadline, as well as addressing other issues facing the project.
Time was of the essence and meetings were quickly coordinated to pull all parties together.
Assembled by conference call was Gary Ross and Rick Minster, Business Oregon; Ed Tabor, Department of Energy; Joe Ritter, Seminole Financial Services; Jerry Kincaid, Northeast Oregon Business Development; and Jeremy Gilpin, Community Bank. The Eastern Oregon University Small Business Development Center facilitated full discussions and brainstormed to see what these various entities would be able to do.
Items of discussion included:
• the Seminole Finance Companies equity requirement;
• participation of Business Oregon – use of the Boost Loan Program;
• participation of NOBD/NEOEDD;
• extension of the Oregon Department of Energy - SELP Loan;
• BETC clarification; and the
• February 1, 2011 deadline.
“Eastern Oregon University’s Small Business Development Center was instrumental in facilitating an extraordinarily complex financing,” stated Ed Tabor, Senior Loan Officer with the Oregon Department of Energy. “Without Greg’s effort this complex project would not have occurred.”
Over a period of 45 days, more than 20 different conference calls, personal meetings and loan committees convened. SBDC staff meticulously handled the details of each parties needs and objectives through the organization and facilitation of these meetings.
“They got the job done,” stated Joe Ritter, Vice President with the Seminole Companies. “We really appreciate everything they were able to accomplish so late in the game.”
In the end, and to Randy’s great relief, the Eastern Oregon University Small Business Development Center was able to participate in:
• securing $450,000 of equity funds;
• securing $150,000 of BOOST loan program funds;
• one last extension of the Oregon Department of Energy – SELP Loan; and
• BETC clarification.
“Without the assistance from the Eastern Oregon University Small Business Development Center, this project would have been dead in the water. I cannot stress enough how incredible Greg was in pulling both private and public sectors together in order to accomplish this,” stated Randy.
It was encouraging to note the comment from Rick Minster, Business Development Officer for Business Oregon: “Without Greg Smith’s efforts in facilitating the conference calls with both public and private entities, this project would not have made the deadline.”
“Without the assistance from the EOU SBDC, this project would have been dead in the water. I cannot stress enough how incredible Greg, (SBDC Director), was in pulling both private and public sectors together in order to accomplish this.”
LIME WIND, LLC