By editorial board • 

Economic development at the county could use consistency

Yamhill County has yet to come up with a economic development strategy that’s stuck. But it’s not for lack of effort.

Five years ago, the county budget committee urged commissioners to better align spending of its portion of state lottery revenue with state guidelines. The state money is earmarked for “economic development,” but that term was being stretched widely by most counties around the state, including this one.
Since then, the county has taken several initiatives.

A countywide task force created a GROW Yamhill County campaign with a strong marketing focus. Meanwhile, a private contractor spent a year pushing for a campaign to become a state, if not national, leader in the agriculture drone industry.

Those two initiatives are not entirely lost causes. Most notably, growyamhillcounty.com remains a viable online recruitment and marketing tool with a lot of untapped potential.

The county has since awarded a $20,000-a-year contract to the Salem-based Strategic Economic Development Corporation, known as SEDCOR, to help guide local efforts.

Meanwhile, it has doled out myriad grants, both small and large, in the name of spurring development of elements of the local business community.

The grant process has helped foster some success stories, involving direct creation of jobs. It has also produced some big flops, including that of Travel Yamhill Valley, which burned through $60,000 of the public’s money determining its operation was unsustainable.    

The county recently opened bids on a new economic development contract and received three. They were submitted by SEDCOR, the McMinnville Economic Development Partnership and Better City LLC of Ogden, Utah.

The board is asking whoever wins the next contract to assume command of its grant application process as well as handle strategic planning and implementation duties.

The slate of elected officials at the county is open to change every couple years, so creating a vision five to 10 years out takes both strong leadership and a goodly degree of luck. That makes a strong case to involve a cross-section of people in the process, as they are intent to do this go-around. The county plans to have a committee of staff and community members review the bids and present a recommendation to the county commissioners. Hopefully, that group, with the commissions, can forge a plan that won’t fall apart due to a lack of institutional consistency. 

We’ve long advocated for concrete investment to be part of the county’s strategy. Investment into our local airports, for example, will lead to more outside dollars entering and spreading throughout the county. 

But whatever the county does next, we hope a long-term vision is at the very least considered in the process.  

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