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LCCDC changes name to reflect wider service area

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RONAN — The hub of economic development in the Mission Valley starts the New Year with a new name, new faces and more lending muscle. Mission West Community Development Partners (formerly Lake County Community Development Corporation) is a burgeoning non-profit, headquartered in Ronan, with four major facets: a Business Development Center, Community Development Center, Cooperative Development Center and the Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center.

The organization started in 1992 as a housing authority and evolved into a countywide economic development organization in 1995 with a revolving loan fund designed to help small businesses. In 1999, founder Billie Lee teamed up with employee Jan Tusick to explore cooperative development and eventually establish the food enterprise center to facilitate value-added products for the agricultural community. Since 2003, the organization has been a Certified Regional Development Corporation – meaning its territory also includes Mineral and Sanders counties.

The name change, says Executive Director Jim Thaden, acknowledges that the organization’s reach extends beyond the Mission Valley to encompass neighboring counties (hence Mission West). 

“We retained community development because it reflects our core mission,” he says of the new moniker. “And we changed from corporation to partners to reflect our methodology of doing business, which is: we try to collaborate and partner with clients, organizations and governments.”

As a Community Development Financial Institution, MWCDP recently received $525,000 from the Treasury Department to make money available to higher risk clients, either independently or in tandem with banks and provide free training and business consulting. These funds are also available to communities that may need a low-interest loan to fund a vital need or service. 

Mission West also expects to receive a $400,000 grant from the Economic Development Administration (part of the U.S. Department of Commerce). Available within eight weeks, these funds are geared toward low- and moderate-income start-ups and entrepreneurs.

The coming year, says Thaden, will be spent integrating and distributing $1.9 million in loan funds available through Mission West’s Business Development Center, including more than $900,000 in new resources.

That’s a big shift from last year, when COVID-19 forced the organization “to shift about 75 percent of all of our efforts” toward sharing information about pandemic resources, offering grant and loan advice to businesses and providing around $200,000 in technical assistance via the organization’s Expert Advisor Network. 

Mission West also played a critical role in connecting food producers, whose markets were upended by the pandemic, with needy families across the region. Since the onset of COVID-19, the Farmers to Families project distributed 98,000 pounds of food at 20 different locations. Through Dec. 31, the program delivered Montana-grown meat and produce to around 5,000 people, while giving more than 20 area growers a market for their wares. 

Funding sources included the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Family Food Box Program, Headwaters Foundation and the Montana Farmers Union, among others. The program continues under the auspices of Salish Kootenai College with continuing involvement from the Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center and the Western Montana Growers Cooperative. 

Stepping into 2021, Mission West continues “to be a really strong partner to the community across all three counties to help kick-start the economy as we come out of the COVID-19 recession,” says Thaden.  

By diversifying and gathering funding sources, including technical assistance dollars, and recruiting top-notch personnel both in-house and for its advisor network, “We are in a very strong position to help people,” he adds.

The organization plans to launch a new campaign, “Call Me,” in the next few weeks to spread the word that assistance is available for communities and businesses alike. “Basically, we’re telling people the story that we’re in a position to help and we want to help.” 

To learn more about the many facets of Mission West, visit the revamped website at missionwestcdp.org.

 

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