rting and sustaining small businesses in Crook County has not been easy in the past few years.
One need look no further than the recent closure of the Book and Bean or the recent “go digital” mandate Pine Theater faces to see evidence of this.
With that in mind, the Crook County Patriots pitched a proposal to give local businesses a hand up. While the Patriots have their hearts in the right place, it’s clear their heads are not.
Patriots chair Craig Brookhart has suggested a short-term loan program in which seed money is provided by the City or County and administered through a third-party broker. To qualify, applicants would have to demonstrate the viability of their business as well as its value to the community and other criteria.
This raises some serious red flags. First of all, loaning taxpayer money for any reason, even through a third party, leaves open the possibility that they won’t get that money back.
Secondly, we have to question why our taxpayer money should fund a loan for a business that has failed to secure one through an established bank. This, in turn, raises another point — what third-party would administer such a loan? It’s hard to imagine any bank as a willing administrator and it’s also hard to see another party doing the job as ably.
The businesses that the Patriots’ proposal would help — viable ones that add value to the community — should be able to stand on their own. If not, we don’t think it’s wise to throw taxpayer money at them, and risk losing it, or risk a third party group such as the Chamber of Commerce or EDCO — both of which receive a significant amount of taxpayer support — ending up the owner of a failed business.
In 2009, Crook County fronted the money for a personal bond to the Breese Ranch, with the understanding that the developer would repay the money with the sale of future homes. While the bond option was legal, it still put the County in the tenuous position of being in the real estate business should Breese Ranch default on the personal bond.
Brookhart noted that the Patriots’ proposal would be a better alternative to this situation in that the funds would be made available on the basis of how qualified an applicant was, and not on personal contacts.
At the end of the day, government should not be in the business of being in business. If an independent group wants to create a business assistance grant program to help failing businesses, that’s fine with us. Just don’t do it with taxpayer dollars.