DISTINGUISHED EOU GRAD TO FOCUS ON DEVELOPING SMALL BUSINESS
By Ray Linker
Observer Business Editor
State Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner, has signed a contract as director of the Small Business Development Center on the Eastern Oregon University campus.
But he doesnt plan to mix his political activities with his duties in this job, which he said would take up 25 to 30 hours a week.
I will keep them separate. This should be a good relationship. I have a part-time contractual relationship with EOU. Its important for me to retain my title as an entrepreneur, and as a legislator, I need to be flexible, he said in an interview this week.
Eastern has given me specific criteria, and its up to me as to how I achieve them.
I will be in Union County three days a week. I also will serve Wallowa and Grant counties. I have an understanding with Eastern that if the job takes more than 30 hours a week, I will adjust, Smith said.
His education and experience make him a good fit for the job.
Smith, a 1992 graduate of Eastern Oregon University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Liberal Studies and a minor in philosophy, was named EOUs 2001 Distinguished Alumnus. He serves on the board of directors of Easterns alumni association.
Smith, 33, managed the Morrow Development Corporation, a subsidiary corporation of the Port of Morrow in Boardman, for six years. When he was elected to the Legislature, the port offered him a contract to continue management of the small business financial assistance group.
He said he actively promoted economic expansion, diversified employment opportunities, job creating, community development and the enhancement of the Morrow County tax base.
I told people that my job was to create jobs.
After Steven Turner left as director of the Small Business Development Center at Eastern, Sandy Cutler, the statewide director, contacted Smith about the vacancy in La Grande.
Our discussion was about filling the job on a short-term basis, but after some dialogue, we decided it made sense to work on a permanent basis on a contractual arrangement, Smith said.
He realizes a major task is to get the center and its services known to the community. He doesnt plan to spend a lot of time in his small office in Zabel Hall Room 218 on the EOU campus. Secretary Sue Bloomfield will be there from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Ive already spoken to the Chamber of Commerce and to the Rotary Club this week, he said.
Soon you might see him walking up and down the main business streets of area communities, getting acquainted and finding out the needs of business people.
Based on the needs of the community, I will adjust. I hope to focus on assisting small businesses and potential small businesses, whether its marketing, figuring how to set up a bookkeeping system, planning how to borrow money from a bank.
He plans to offer free one-on-one counseling to new or existing businesses. The center offers workshops, referrals to other agencies and access to resource materials and government contract information. The center should serve as a clearing house where business people can come when they have questions about regulations or financing or other subjects, Smith said.
He will have flexible hours in order to meet with business people on weekends, in the evenings or early morning, he said. They can come to his office or he will go to them.
He wants to develop a once-a-month class, with a different topic each month so that business people can attend ones they are interested in. The topics will include such things as bookkeeping, how to prepare for a loan, insurance, regulations and marketing, he said.
The center is not a lending institution, he said, but he plans to work closely with such groups as the Northeast Oregon Economic Development District, the Union County Economic Development Corporation, local banks and other local organizations promoting economic development.
Another objective of the center, Smith said, was to provide an educational opportunity for EOU students, who will work closely with him in serving small business owners.
Smith has not decided definitely to move to La Grande, where his mother was born, but he said, Its important to be a member of the community. I will try to fill that responsibility.
The center is funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Oregon Department of Economic Development and EOU, but it is no longer a part of Easterns Regional Services Institute.
Reach Ray Linker at