Spokane Journal of Business

Sirti seeks federal money to launch green loan fund

Proposed microloan effort would be similar to one aimed at high-tech startups

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Sirti's nonprofit fundraising affiliate is seeking federal funding to create a loan fund here to assist emerging businesses in the clean technology sector.

The affiliate, the Sirti Foundation, hopes to secure $2.5 million in federal grant and loan funds to support clean energy technology startups, says Kim Zentz, executive director.

Like the Sirti Foundation's current Technology Growth Fund, the new Clean Technology Fund would support "almost bankable" clean energy companies, companies that are almost strong enough to obtain bank financing for their activities, in 10 Washington counties and five counties in North Idaho.

The new fund, like the Technology Growth Fund, would provide loans ranging from $50,000 to $300,000. The Technology Growth Fund, launched in 2006, is supported through a combination of grants from the U.S. Department of Commerce and Economic Development Administration and loan funds from the Business Development Corporation of Eastern Washington.

Currently that $3 million fund has lent all the money it has to lend, and will continue to support technology companies as the current batch of loans are paid back, says Zentz.

The Sirti Foundation's request for $2.5 million for a green-company loan fund is expected to be considered in the current session of Congress, says Zentz. Washington U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray have backed Sirti's request, says Zentz. Whether the request is approved won't be known until September.

The total for the proposed fund is $5 million, with $2.5 million matched from local banks and private investors if the request is approved, Sirti says.

Companies that receive loans through a Sirti fund also receive coaching from entrepreneurs associated with Sirti, the state agency says.

The process of applying for and receiving loans will be the same for green startups as for Sirti's other benefactors. The top criteria for selecting between green technology loan applicants will be their ability to repay the loan and their presentation of a strong business plan, says Zentz.

Sirti chose to create a fund specifically for companies in green-related technologies because among its 54 clients in 2009, about a third fell into that category, Zentz says.

One, for instance, is Flyback Energy Inc., which has developed a more efficient electronic switch design that offers unprecedented control over electronic and magnetic fields, thus creating better efficiency in electronic devices, Sirti says.

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