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POSTED: Sunday, Jun. 21, 2009

State investment program may help small businesses

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Finding investors for emerging technology is tough work these days, but a regional company is using a state program that might bring some projects to Whatcom County.

Farm Power Northwest LLC recently received a permit to make investment offerings through the Small Company Offering Registration program from the state's Department of Financial Institutions. This allows the company to advertise and hold public meetings for potential Washington state investors. Farm Power organizes, owns and operates anaerobic manure digesters, partnering with dairy farms to generate renewable electricity. It is finishing up a digester project near Mount Vernon and is attempting to do some projects in Whatcom County.

Farm Power has worked closely with Ferndale-based Andgar Corporation to get four digester projects built and installed across the state. Along with producing electricity, the digester also produces bedding for the cows.

    Farm Power President Kevin Maas said the SCOR program is a nice fit because this kind of offering is focused on Washington residents. If they had gone through a typical public offering, it would be regulated by the federal government and managed by investment bankers. The state program allows LLCs to raise up to $1 million during a 12-month period through the sales of securities to the public.

    "There is really no inexpensive way to do a federal public offering," Maas said. "We're a small company that really wants to focus on digesters."

    SCOR is used infrequently in Washington, said Faith Anderson, associated general council in the securities division at state's Department of Financial Institutions. She said the goal for creating the program is to allow small businesses to participate without the huge expense of attorney fees, but it is still a lot of work.

    Farm Power has been holding meetings in Whatcom County, seeking investors as well as projects. They have received some interest, but it's been a challenge in today's economic climate.

    "The dairy industry is in rough shape, which is distracting to farmers," Maas said. "Even though we take on the risks involved in the project, they are worried about how long they will be in business."

    It's good to see regional companies continuing to work on energy solutions. The current economic climate makes raising capital very challenging, but at least there is this option for small businesses. After all, this is one of those industries that many think will help lead the economy out of this recession.

    To learn more about Farm Power Northwest, visit farmpower.com. For details about SCOR, visit dfi.wa.gov/sd/scor.htm or call (360) 902-8760.

    Reach DAVE GALLAGHER at dave.gallagher@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2269.
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