Jesse Jones

Development fund keeps Rainier Valley in business after light rail disruption

SEATTLE — Try the fish at the Comfort Zone restaurant in Seattle’s Rainier Valley, and prepare to get hooked.

However, it wasn’t long ago when the business desperately needed cash to stay afloat.

Owner Talya Miller says, “I wouldn’t we wouldn’t have a comfort zone if it wasn’t for the funding.”

But the Rainier Valley Community Development Fund that sailed in and saved the day, “They had eaten my food before they knew about the comfort zone, and they wanted to see me stay, relevant and stay there.”

The fund was created to help businesses displaced and disrupted by the light rail project.

Sound Transit agreed to put 50 million dollars in a fund for the community.

Its first loan was in 2006.

Bob Luciano, the fund’s Executive Director tells me, “About half of that went out in direct mitigation grants to, the impacted businesses along the rail line. and the remaining 25 million converted to what we now call the fund.”

That money is loaned to small businesses and non-profits and then paid back into the self-sustaining fund.

Luciano tells me the total so far since inception -has impacted at least 300 business with more than 90 million dollars.

“And so having access to affordable credit is critical to them staying in place in community.”

And Talya couldn’t be more grateful, “You know, them being supportive. And not only them teaching me some things about money and introducing me to other organizations that help with the money.”

Bob tells us the fund provided Talya with around 65 thousand dollars in loans and grants -part of the eight million total it provided to 27 area businesses and organizations last year alone.

“So, they just kept me here. They just were supportive. They wanted to see me thrive and wanted to see me continue to help people. They helped me the way I helped everybody else,” Talya says.

In this case-the fund is just a bit of home cooking-that pays for itself-and feeds The Rainer Valley’s heart and soul.