An aerobic digester that turns food waste or manure into energy.
A plan to help revitalize a downtown core.
Local leaders are hoping to find and help finance innovative ideas to keep the county fresh, lively and healthy.
The Future Oxford Legacy Fund could make some of those dreams a reality with a loan or a grant up to $100,000.
“This fund was one of the fundamental parts of Future Oxford,” said Miranda Fuller, program director of Future Oxford. “The whole idea of the Future Oxford Legacy Fund was to fund projects and programs that moved the needle on action items within the community sustainability plan.”
Local entrepreneurs, companies, and non-profits can apply for a piece of the $300,000 pie, all aimed at making the county socially, environmentally and economically sustainable.
It's about balancing all three of those sectors, Fuller said.
“Don’t think that because a business doesn’t have a “green” focus, that they’re not applicable to the criteria. Sustainable business models and being sustainable is much more than just being environmentally conscious,” she said.
The loans and grants cover a wide variety of areas that were noted in the Community Sustainability Plan.
“From poverty to housing needs to reforestation to economic vitality within our downtown cores, and what does that look like - there’s so much potential. It’s not just something that funds renewable energy projects,” Fuller said.
A group called Community Futures Oxford – formerly the Oxford Small Business Support Centre – is handling the logistics of doling out the fund, including accepting and reviewing applications.
Oxford County council committed to $340,000 that will start the fund, with $40,000 pegged for Community Futures Oxford’s administration costs.
Despite the similarities in name, the small business centre isn’t affiliated with Future Oxford. In fact, the “Community Futures” label is a consistent brand for small business centres in rural areas all across the province.
“We still want to serve small business, we still want to work with small business, but it was time to have an update, and a refreshed website,” said Community Futures Oxford general manager Allan Simm.
“I think (the name) Community Futures can really resonate with what we want to do.”
Simm called the partnership between Community Futures Oxford and Future Oxford Legacy Fund is a “good fit.”
“There’s some priority sectors here that we’re targeting. It’s youth entrepreneurship and employment, arts, culture, tourism, high tech manufacturing, green technology, locally grown and processed agriculture,” he said.
Community Futures Oxford has experience with lending, and can also guide applicants to other possible sources of funding, including start-up loans.
The Future Oxford Legacy Fund loans could be as high as $100,000 and will be paid back within five to 10 years, Simm said. Grants will be smaller, but a dollar range hasn’t been confirmed, and those funds will go to non-profit and community groups.
“What we’re looking for is will the project enhance entrepreneurship opportunities in Oxford, will it enhance local food production, will it enhance Oxford’s green economy?” Simm said.
There’s no doubt in Fuller’s mind that there are innovative businesses and community members that could put a loan or grant from the Future Oxford Legacy Fund to good use.
“We’re excited about the possibilities, and the creative and motivated community members and businesses in Oxford County that are going to be able to access this fund.”