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Harder tapped to lead Business Oregon

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SALEM — Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday the selection of a new director for the state’s economic development agency Business Oregon.

Chris Harder will begin work as the agency’s acting director on March 22, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

CHRIS HARDERHarder will need the Oregon Senate to confirm him as Business Oregon’s permanent director. Harder is the business and industry division manager for the Portland Development Commission, which is the city’s economic development agency.

“I’m excited to bring Chris on board to help continue Oregon’s economic momentum,” Brown said in a statement. “Chris’ leadership experience will ensure the state’s economic development strategy represents and serves a diverse array of business interests, urban and rural.”

Business Oregon has operated without a permanent director since September, when director Sean Robbins resigned to move back to Wisconsin to be closer to his family. Brown’s jobs and economic policy adviser, Vince Porter, filled in as interim director since then.

It took months for the governor’s office to find an applicant who could gain the support of the Business Oregon Commission and, ultimately, the Oregon Senate. The governor’s office considered a total of 13 applicants for the job, according to Chris Pair, the governor’s press secretary.

In the fall, Elisa Dozono was a finalist for the job, as first reported by Willamette Week. Dozono apparently dropped out of the applicant pool at some point after she went through interviews with Business Oregon commissioners.

Dozono had stepped down in June as chairwoman of the Oregon Lottery Commission amid concerns about conflict of interest. Dozono works at Miller Nash Graham and Dunn, the firm that sued the Oregon Lottery on behalf of a lottery retailer.

By Friday, the governor’s office and Business Oregon Commission had narrowed the pool to the latest two finalists who interviewed with Brown, Harder and Judy Peppler, a former president of Qwest Communications in Oregon and chair of the Portland Business Alliance. Pair said Peppler withdrew her name from consideration over the weekend. “Chris (Harder) was the leading candidate after the interviews,” Pair said.

The change in leadership comes at a time Business Oregon is poised to take on new responsibilities. The agency is one of the candidates to take over the Oregon Department of Energy’s troubled small scale energy loan program and potentially other energy incentives.

In a letter to the state’s interim chief operating officer George Naughton in early December, Brown asked Naughton to create a team to “immediately address the issues of how to best transfer the Small-Scale Energy Loan Program and energy incentives program (tax credits) away from the Department of Energy to one or more appropriate state agencies that have expertise in financial transactions and instruments.” Business Oregon and the Department of Revenue officials are working with Naughton on how to proceed.

Business Oregon and the governor’s office were unwilling to provide much information about the candidates until this week, and the Pamplin Media Group/EO Media Group Capital Bureau filed a public records request Jan. 11 for communications between the Business Oregon Commission and staff regarding the recruitment of a new director.

Business Oregon, which has previously released public records free of charge, responded that it would charge $160 to provide a list of emails between staff and the commission, with most of the cost — $143 — due to the agency’s insistence on having its lawyer review the list.

The Capital Bureau is a collaboration between the Pamplin Media Group and the EO Media Group. Hillary Borrud can be reached at 503-364-4431 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..