LA GRANDE — The City of La Grande is beginning its search for a new economic development director following the departure of Christine Jarski after six years of holding the position.
Jarski is leaving the role on Thursday, June 17, and will be pursuing other endeavors in specialized education. The City of La Grande is now looking for a new candidate that can operate the position in the years to come.
“It has been an honor to serve the City of La Grande and work with many businesses here over the past six years,” Jarski said.
The Economic Development Department corresponds with local, regional and statewide economic resources and oversees the implementation of the Urban Renewal Plan, Economic Development Plan and the Main Street Program in La Grande.
Candidates will operate in a one-person department with joint administrative support. The main areas of responsibility as economic development director include implementing the goals of the city’s Urban Renewal Plan, assisting in the recovery of businesses following the COVID-19 pandemic, managing the IGNITE Center for Entrepreneurship and working with La Grande Main Street Downtown.
According to the city’s job posting, qualified candidates need a minimum of three years of experience in project management, economic development, entrepreneurial support, economics and other related fields. Experience in urban renewal is also preferred, as the candidate will play a key role in working with the La Grande Urban Renewal Agency.
One key area of the economic development director position is working with the La Grande Main Street Downtown and participating on its board of directors as well as chairing the economic vitality committee. The program aims to foster a diverse business landscape in the downtown area and promote community engagement.
“I have been inspired by the many small businesses, which are the backbone of our community,” Jarski said.
Additionally, the economic development director oversees IGNITE La Grande, a hub for small business resources. The space on Depot Street in downtown La Grande offers internet connection, referrals, desktop computers, printers and a space for collaboration among entrepreneurs.
During Jarski’s six-year tenure with the City of La Grande, the Urban Renewal Agency invested more than $1.6 million into projects through urban renewal grant and loan programs.
Jarski noted that two of her favorite projects during her tenure were the Pennington Project and the Landing Hotel. The Pennington Project restored approximately 18,000 square feet of space to create housing downtown and allowed Tap That Growlers to expand in its location. The Landing Hotel is a renovated boutique in downtown La Grande that provides high-quality cuisine.
These types of projects are typical forms of long-term work for the city’s economic development director. As La Grande moves toward filling the position, a number of funding requests have already been put in place to expand the IGNITE Center. Additionally, projects based on helping local businesses during the pandemic remain at the forefront.
The former economic development director noted that building relationships in La Grande and making life-long friends has been a bright spot during her tenure.
“Everyone always talks about the mountains and the outdoors being what makes La Grande special, but really it’s the amazing people who live here,” she said.