By Nathalie Hardy • Columnist • 

County to hire economic development coordinator

It’s about to adopt one prepared on its behalf by GROW Yamhill County under the direction of Jody Christensen of the Yamhill Economic Development Partnership, but first it wants to line up someone to handle implementation. And it thinks it may have found the right person in Jeff Lorton of the Carlton-based Duke Joseph Agency.

Commissioners first got a taste of Lorton’s work through his promotion of the Yamhelas Westsider Rails with Trails project.When he visited with Commissioner Mary Stern in her role as a member of the Travel Yamhill Valley board, it occurred to her he might be a good fit for the county’s new economic development mission.

She broached the idea with her fellow commissioners. A meeting was arranged and it seemed to go swimmingly.

Commissioner Allen Springer said he was convinced Lorton would be flexible and creative in pursuing economic development opportunities. “Let’s work together to get this thing off the ground and move it forward,” he said.

“I was struck by your enthusiasm and common sense,” Commissioner Kathy George told Lorton. “I can see you are flexible and clearly you have an incredible entrepreneurial spirit. We want something that would by dynamic and beneficial, with countywide involvement from the cities.”

The board is looking for someone to work part-time on a contract basis, and Lorton said he was open to that. It ended up asking him to return next week with a proposal establishing a set of goals and applying cost figures to them.

The county has long wrestled with the question of how to best spend the roughly $250,000 it receives annually in state video lottery revenue. The state mandates it be spent on economic development, but has historically allowed counties a liberal interpretation.

Both the state and counties have decided the effort needs sharper focus. To that end, the county allocated $107,000 last year for the development of a set of comprehensive criteria under the direction of Christensen and GROW Yamhill County.

Stern said she was pleased with what GROW produced. “Another thing I love, that came out of GROW, is the regional development team,” she said.

Her fellow commissioners concurred, and agreed the person they selected to implement the plan should continue to involve that team, as it is broad-based and representative of diverse interests.

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