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Newberg out of ABC contest

Development — City not selected as semifinalist, but efforts to date provide a path to future city improvements, organizers say

Newberg did not make it to the next round of the America’s Best Communities contest, Frontier Communications announced last week, but the organizers behind the Newberg effort stress that the work that has been done still puts the city in a good position for progress.

The city began working on the contest application 16 months ago and was selected in April as one of 50 quarter-finalists from a pool of more than 350 applicants.

At that time Newberg was awarded $50,000 with an additional $15,000 match by the city.

From that point the team behind the application – made up of about 100 community partners – worked with economic consultants at EcoNorthwest to hone in on the revitalization plan.

The work was primarily in anticipation of moving to the next round of the contest, but following the Jan. 13 announcement the stakeholders indicated they will focus on that plan itself and will continue implementing it even though the city is out of the running for the contest.

“Many people in our community contributed to this effort and we all believe we have a great plan to build upon,” Carr Biggerstaff, president of the Chehalem Valley Chamber of Commerce and lead organizer behind Newberg’s ABC application, said in an email. “Plus all of the projects are well underway.”

The plan submitted by the Newberg team had five components and Biggerstaff gave an update on what stage each is in.

— Workforce development: The CVCC’s internship program is expanding and the goal is to put it on year-round. The George Fox University IDEA (Initiate Discover Engage Achieve) Center is helping to make that happen.

The CVCC is also working with the Newberg School District and with local businesses to bring about more interactions between local students and the business community.

— Business resource center and innovation accelerator: Portland Community College’s CLIMB center, the CVCC and the city all provide services to help businesses, whether it’s giving general advice, helping with expansion or connecting businesses with the community. The innovation accelerator, which would aim to foster business success in the region, particularly in the high-tech industry, is in the works and has as its first participant students in the nonPareil Institute, which provides technical training to those on the autism spectrum.

This gives the city “its first hi-tech software success,” Biggerstaff said. “We are excited to have an incredible opportunity to help and learn from such a talented group.”

— Downtown revitalization: This project is well underway with several open house events held over the past few months and an advisory group formed to guide the process.

— Wine industry vertical integration: The team determined there is interest in a concerted effort to bring more elements of the wine industry into the local area. Vertical integration would mean the majority of wine-related activities (wine cultivation, fermentation, equipment production, etc.) would be sourced locally. Given the interest, the next step is looking into what needs to be done to make that happen, in technical terms a “gap analysis.”

So while the contest will continue without Newberg, the experience and work that went into the process will continue to benefit the city.

“I’ve never been more impressed with the passion, energy and expertise that our ABC team, partners and contributors brought to this effort,” Biggerstaff said. “It’s a true pleasure to be a part of this community.”

Although Newberg is out of the running, one of its neighbors was selected to move forward: Tualatin will be among 15 cities that will be represented at a North Carolina summit in April, a group that will then be pared down to eight who each receive $100,000.

The contest culminates in April 2017, when the top three entrants are selected and are awarded $3 million, $2 million and $1 million respectively.