October 22, 2003 11:00 pm

Folks at La Grande City Hall were fairly electrified last week when it was announced that Telos Development had received the tax credits and other funding it needs to build the new N.K. West Building on Adams Avenue, downtown. It was some of the best news they could have gotten.

The building, named for one of

La Grande's early pioneers, will go up over the site of the old Bohnenkamp Interiors store, which burned down about nine years ago. Construction will start in the spring, and take about a year.

By the time the city transfers title to the property, it will have invested more than $100,000 in it, counting the cost of the parcel and the price of cleaning it up.

But the key word here is investment. Telos will spend some $4 million on the project, a sum that translates nicely into jobs and other economic benefits.

Plus, La Grande will have a residential/retail/office building attractive enough to serve as a landmark.

The deal was in the works for a long time, and both the city and Telos had to find their way through what David Glennie, a Telos executive, calls "a maze of pre-development issues."

Friday, Glennie expressed appreciation to the city for all its efforts, and singled out several officials, including City Manager Wes Hare, Planner Mike Hyde and Assistant Public Works Director Norman Paullus for special thanks.

No doubt they deserve it. They'll tell you they were just doing their jobs, but actually, they were creating a legacy.

Since I'm a former longtime resident of Wallowa County, I note with more than passing interest the county chamber's and the Northeast Oregon Economic Development District's efforts to promote international tourism.

I honestly didn't know so much was being done, but I think it's a good thing.

Talk to anybody who has lived in Oregon's top right corner for any length of time, you'll hear them say they love the place, but it's oh, so hard to make a living.

Things are better than they used to be, as the people have adjusted to a new economy that's geared as much to the visitor trade as it is to timber and agriculture.

During the tourist season, anyway, unemployment stays low. Jobs in the tourism sector don't pay a lot, but still, it's easier than before for a person to find something to do.

On the other hand, the unemployment numbers have a habit of shooting up in the off-season.

I'd like to see the eco-devo folks fix that. I'd like to see an industry come in that provided significant jobs year-round.

Nobody ever agreed with me, but I always thought a community college would be a good thing to build in the county. You'd have all those on-campus jobs, a lot more off-campus, and nobody could claim it was harming the environment, or the scenery.

But pay me no mind. I'm just a newspaperman. If I was only half as smart as I sound, I'd be an eco-devo person, too.

Bill Rautenstrauch is The Observer's business editor. Contact him by e-mail at:

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