City develops, pursues new economic development plan
With the news spotlight shining on the City of La Grande’ budget woes
recently, Community and Economic Development Director Charlie Mitchell
is a little worried people aren’t aware of steps being taken to bolster
growth and development.
Mitchell said a number of initiatives are under way or in the wind. For one thing, he said he’s excited about the city council’s adoption of a new comprehensive and strategic economic development plan.“Although there has been much well-deserved coverage of the budget crisis of late, there is some good and exciting news to report on the economic development front,” he said.
Mitchell said the plan adopted by the council was written following more than a year of research and work. Developed with the help of focus groups, it includes 14 strategy areas, ranked in priority.
The top priority is continuing work already begun on downtown development and revitalization. Second is developing a proactive business recruiting and expansion program, in conjunction with the Union County Economic Development Corp. Third is an aggressive marketing plan aimed at filling the La Grande Business Park.
Other priorities include establishing clear roles and responsibilities for city and county economic development agencies, opening new opportunities for industrial development, creating and supporting a pro-business environment, and more.
The plan covers 2010-2013. Now that it’s adopted, Mitchell said the city isn’t letting grass grow under its feet.
“Implementation began immediately,” he said.
Mitchell said a second economic development initiative under way is implementation of UCEDC’s strategic and economic development plan.
That plan, formulated by consultant Brian Cole and adopted by UCEDC in October 2009, takes into account input from communities throughout Union County and includes 16 broad economic development strategies.
Mitchell said a steering committee is already coordinating implementation and assigning associated responsibilities to lead agencies.
He also said he is one of the people working on UCEDC-led initiatives involving business retention and expansion, business recruitment and business cultivation.
“Implementation of these elements should begin in earnest in the next few months,” he said.
Also according to the UCEDC plan, an outreach team will be calling on Union County businesses, and a marketing plan and budget for business attraction will be developed, Mitchell said.
A third economic development and revitalization initiative, the forming of a multi-county Eastern Oregon marketing partnership, is in the concept phase and may bear fruit later.
The idea is to combine resources to market the region for new business investment and development opportunities. Mitchell said a consortium of business professionals have met twice to explore the concept, which he avidly supports.
“I firmly believe it is the best way to leverage our limited resources to locate new business projects and encourage them to invest in Eastern Oregon,” Mitchell said.
Still one more economic development effort under way is formation of the Connetta Project, a network of young adults living and working in the area. Mitchell said the idea is to engage, retain and attract young people with talent.
Mitchell said the idea grew from a webinar he took part in with Union County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Judy Hector and others.
“We decided to go for it,” he said.
The idea was pitched to the regional Workforce Investment Board, and Community Bank stepped forward as a sponsor.
By now, the group, called the Connetta Project, has a board of directors. Interest has been high, with 50 to 60 young people showing up at an initial meeting at La Fiesta restaurant June 24.
“This may be one of the most exciting grassroots economic initiatives to take place in Union County in a long time,” Mitchell said.