By Brianna Bailey
Copyright © 2013, Oklahoma Publishing Company
Oklahoma City is considering partnering with the local nonprofit i2E Inc. to offer financing for smaller, but growing local companies with a new program called GrowOKC.
Under GrowOKC, Oklahoma City would match a $1 million contribution from i2E to create a $2 million fund. The program would provide up to $250,000 for growing smaller businesses in the city.
Oklahoma City’s contribution to the program would come from its Strategic Investment Program, which until now has provided job creation incentives for larger companies to expand in the state. The city has inked several job creation deals through the Strategic Investment Program worth millions of dollars over the past few years with larger companies such as Boeing, Chesapeake Energy and Continental Resources.
GrowOKC would target smaller companies, said Brent Bryant, economic development program manager for Oklahoma City.
“Some people have criticized the SIP program for just being for larger companies,” Bryant said. “Under this program, we are looking to help smaller companies grow.”
i2E hopes that the program will be able to supplement bank loans and other sources of financing to help smaller local companies expand. Funding might also be available for a new-to-market company that wants to relocate its headquarters to Oklahoma City, said Rex Smitherman, vice president of operations for i2E said.
“This would be a partnership with the city to provide some growth capital to small Oklahoma City businesses,” he said.
The city’s contribution to the companies would be in the form of a collateralized loan, which would have to be repaid. As part of the GrowOKC program, i2E would secure small equity investments in the businesses, Smitherman said.
“We see it as a really unique way to enhance what the banks are doing and maybe get some deals done that maybe aren’t getting done now,” Smitherman said.
The Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust is slated to vote on whether to approve the new program at its next meeting. GrowOKC also would have to be approved by the Oklahoma City Council.