Orem City received a national merit award Tuesday from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development for its innovative use of Community Development Block Grants.
The award was given in particular for Orem's Business Revolving Loan Fund program, which provides low interest loans to businesses that will create new permanent, private sector jobs for low and moderate income Orem residents.The fund, begun in 1985, was the first such program in the state of Utah and now totals $1.5 million.
Orem's CDBG program is administered by Brett P. Barrett. Wanda W. Leemaster manages the Housing Rehabilitation Loan Program under the CDBG umbrella of programs.
Grady Franklin Maples, HUD Region VIII administrator, Congressman Howard Nielson, members of the City Council and of the business community attended an award ceremony in the council chambers.
Maples said the national recognition award for urban excellence is given to communities that have demonstrated noteworthy public entrepreneurial spirit, promotion of local independence from federal funding, new approaches to encouraging economic or community development and have provided models for other communities to follow.
"This particular award is a pleasure to give because Orem is addressing all of these criteria," Maples said. "Orem is a city that is on the rebound from severe economic reverses."
Maples cited the loss of jobs from the closure of U.S. Steel in 1985, job cut-backs at Signetics Corp., the unavailability of jobs for graduates of higher education institutions in Utah County and Orem's fast growth rates as problems the city has had to deal with.
Maples praised Orem for creating the Commission for Economic Development in 1983 and said the Timpanogos Research and Technology Park was an embodiment of the entrepreneurial spirit expressed and encouraged by the commission.
"The development of this park is the result of resources or funds from the CDBG program and other federal and private sources," Maples said.
The main tenant of the park is the WordPerfect Corp., and interestingly, Maples said HUD has contracted to use WordPerfect programming in its office computers.
Maples presented certificates of recognition to Orem Mayor Blaine Willes, City Manager Daryl Berlin, CDBG administrators Barrett and Leemaster and CEDO Executive Director DeLance Squire. A certificate was also given to Mountainlands Association of Government.
"Without the support of many individuals, these types of projects would not be possible," Barrett said.
The revolving loan fund is overseen by members of two loan review committees and a Community Development Block Grant Citizen's Committee. The committees are comprised of community leaders representing various segments of Orem.
"Much of the success the city of Orem has had in economic development has in some way been associated with the CDBG program," Barrett said.
Barrett praised Congressman Nielson, and said his assistance had been invaluable in supporting economic development in Orem.
Craftsman Upholstery, Granny B's Sugar Cookies and Clyde Inc., are examples of businesses that have participated in the revolving loan fund, Barrett said.