Commissioners talk economic development

What is the role of government in terms of business development?

That was a key topic Tuesday, Dec. 5, at the Linn County Board of Commissioners’ meeting.

Ryan Vogt, Executive Director of the Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments, reported that the organization has been working on long-term strategic planning. That process included reviewing what has worked, what programs could be dropped and which ones could be expanded.

He said there was room to expand economic development assistance for member agencies, including helping small businesses. He said COG could bolster its grant writing program, among other issues.

He added that COG’s Economic Development Director Jenny Glass has taken another position, so that job is open.

Board Chairman Roger Nyquist asked Vogt how COG defines economic development.

Vogt said that includes factors such as compiling a land inventory and building a business support network to help start-up businesses get going and existing businesses expand.

Nyquist asked if COG would also inform potential business start-ups if their ideas were askew to the market place, or if the proposed business developer does not have skills necessary to be successful?

“Not all businesses will be successful and many economic development directors have never run a business or created a job,” Nyquist said. “And, I’ve had people tell me recently that the state is doing everything it can to make it difficult for small businesses.”

Vogt said COG would be honest with people when it comes to their potential for success.

“What is the role of government?” Nyquist said. “Nine times out of 10 it should be to stay out of the way.”

Nyquist said Lebanon was a good example of a municipality that did it right in terms of business development. The community invested in extensive infrastructure and offers shovel-ready industrial land at reasonable prices. That has attracted numerous industrial jobs, as well as the Samaritan Health Medical Campus and the Edward C. Allworth Veterans Home.

He noted that Millersburg has also had similar successes with more anticipated.

Commissioner Will Tucker said a major benefit that could be spearheaded by COG would be supporting affordable childcare systems for working parents.

In other business, the commissioners:

♦ Approved the sale of a small piece of property (0.20 acres) on Santiam Highway east of Lebanon to Corey and Rebecca Leslie for $200 and the sale of a piece of property (0.09 acres) near Gates for $100 to Verlyn P. Aerni.

♦ Approved the purchase of four Ford F350 pickups from Northside Ford in Portland for the Road Department for a total of $254,944 and the purchase of a snow plow, dump body and hydraulics from Columbia Body Manufacturing for $110,775.

♦ Approved extending the Linn County Oregon Eviction Prevention Program by six months due to a grant extension and approved working with the Commons Law Center to create a “warm line” to help people who have non-legal questions, fill out forms and write letters to landlords. It will be funded by $8,000 from the American Recovery Program.

♦ Approved a wrecking yard license for Aerostar Towing & Wrecking in Lebanon.

♦ Approved a zoning map amendment for 1.70 acres near the intersection of Lyons Mill City Drive and 10th Street near Mill City. The property is owned by Robert and Vicki Ward and will be rezoned from Urban Growth Area-Limited Industrial to Urban Growth Area-Rural Residential.

♦ Announced a 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 5, ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new intermodal center in Millersburg.

♦ Announced there may not be a Dec. 27 board meeting unless necessary.

– Alex Paul, Linn County Communications Officer