The Merit Story

The Merit Story
Since its inception ten years ago, MERIT has been working to address the root causes of poverty by providing training, advising and resources to underserved people interested in self-employment. MERIT targets economically, socially, educationally, and physically challenged people who would not normally access business services. By creating their own jobs, our clients are empowered to increase income, build assets and move themselves out of poverty.

Going to the MERIT class helped me gel some of my business ideas and spurred me on to move forward on things that I was putting off. – Cindy, Organizing Your Space
MERIT was created in 2004 by five non-profit organizations working in Marion and Polk Counties who saw a need for an economic development program that would complement the services they offered. These organizations, Polk Community Development Corporation, Salem-Keizer Community Development Corporation, Catholic Community Services, West Valley Housing Authority, and the Chemeketa Small Business Development Center, came together to sponsor three AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers.These volunteers, Rich and Becky Abel and Rob Anderson, drafted a strategic plan for a regional microenterprise development program. Rich Abel, a former DuPont executive from Delaware, was tasked to develop a plan for operations of the MERIT program or Marion Polk Microenterprise Program (MPMP), as it was then called. Becky Abel, a real estate agent from Delaware who had experience teaching financial literacy and home ownership classes, worked on developing access to markets for MERIT clients. And Rob Anderson, a former Peace Corps volunteer who did microenterprise development in Armenia, created a plan for connecting MERIT clients with capital to start their businesses.Since 2004, MERIT has served over 600 people and has helped 256 people start their businesses.In our strategic planning in 2004 that was updated in 2007, we identified the goal of providing services to Spanish speakers. The 2010 launch of classes and advising for native Spanish speakers is significant movement toward accomplishing that goal. The establishment of a Latino Business Advisory Committee in June 2010 is an essential component in ensuring that MERIT stays on target in providing essential self-employment resources to those most in need of them.

Latest News


MERIT to Launch Second Phase of Financial Empowerment Academy

Salem, Oregon – Tuesday February 20, 2018 – In a motivating influence for the Willamette Valley community, MERIT (Micro Enterprise Resource Initiatives and Training) continues providing comprehensive financial and business resources for local business owners and families.

MERIT is a 501(c)3 non-profit, located in downtown Salem’s Center for Business and Industry, and has been helping determined individuals blossom into prosperous business owners in our community for over 13 years. True to their philosophy, MERIT has been a resource in providing training and workshops for local entrepreneurs and business owners who wish to take their ideas to the next level.

Through Initiatives such as group classes, IDA’s (3 to 1 matched savings), lending circles and coaching; MERIT has helped seed the foundations of main street businesses throughout the Willamette Valley.


Our Funding Partners

Merit Funders Logos - NALCAB
Merit Funders Logos -Chemeketa Community College
Merit Funders Logos -Northwest Area Foundation v2
Merit Funders Logos Ford Family Foundation
Merit Funders Logos -Wells Fargo v2