EUGENE, OREGON - You need green to go green. Just ask Barry Miller, president of Shelton Turnbull Printing in Eugene, Oregon.

It's been doing business since Calvin Coolidge's first year in the White House. And for most of that time, Miller told Ilene Aleshire of The Register Guard, it's fit the stereotype of what a print shop is supposed to look, feel and smell like - "a stodgy, old, down and dirty company that prints forms."

Not anymore. A few years ago, Shelton Turnbull's longtime owners sold out to employees. Pretty quickly, though, they ran into some financial road blocks. A head hunter recruited Miller, a former official with the Washington D.C. schools, to come in and transform it into an "integrated graphic resources" firm. Eight months later, he's the president.

The turnaround is well underway. He's restructured the company's debt and cut it by a third. He's bought new equipment, even finding some great buys on eBay. He's introduced new product lines and enhanced customer service. And he's moving full steam ahead going green.

One reason is because of Shelton Turnbull's recent acquisition of Green Solutions Printing, an "an eco-friendly printing service" that came on the market with the unexpected death of its founder.

Another reason is more personal. "I grew up in the housing projects in inner-city Boston," Miller told The Register Guard. "If you'd go in the bathroom and sneeze, somebody in the next apartment would say, 'God Bless you.' I used to take a sleeping bag and hitchhike out of town whenever I could."

Maybe the most important reason is that "going green" keeps customers satisfied. "It's part of the ethos of being in the business community in Oregon, and certainly in Eugene-Springfield," explained Laura Illig of the SELCO Community Credit Union. "It's what our members expect and what they want."

But Miller will be the first to tell you going green's not cheap. And the capital to do so isn't easy to find, especially for a small business.

That's where the City of Eugene comes in. For more than 25 years, it's been doing good business with Eugene's business community, providing low-interest loans to new and existing small businesses through a Business Development Fund and an Emerging Business Loan Pool funded almost entirely by Community Development Block Grant funds from HUD. To date, the two funds have provided more than $17 million in loans to 220 businesses – from bicycle manufacturers to natural food companies, bio-tech to software firms, a hunting bow manufacturer to community revitalization organizations – creating 1,200 new jobs in the process.

Ironically, just about the time that the funds had committed all their available capital, the economy both nationally and Eugene entered the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Just when small businesses needed capital the most, capital dried up.

Fortunately, the President proposed and the Congress passed the American Recovery Reinvestment Act providing the City with additional CDBG funds, most of which it promptly allocated to replenish its loan funds. And those funds are what's enabled Shelton Turnbull to secure a $250,000, 7-year, low-interest loan from the City to finance its purchase of Green Solutions and to move forward with its plan to "go green."

"The backbone of the American economy always has been small business," said HUD Regional Administrator Mary McBride. "How quickly we recovery from the current downturn depends on how easily small business can get access to the capital it needs to develop new products, modernize equipment and put Americans back to work. With private capital markets still in disarray, the City has developed a textbook example of how to step in with public funds to capitalize small businesses. At HUD we're proud to be a part of so innovative and important an undertaking."


Content Archived: December 23, 2013