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County moves to enhance local economy

Gov. Kitzhaber names Martha Schrader to lead an economic development project

MARTHA SCHRADER, appointed by the governor to lead a plan to enhance the countys economyIf it seems like the economy is still struggling, Gov. John Kitzhaber would agree.

In an unexpected move, Kitzhaber has appointed Clackamas County Commissioner Martha Schrader to lead an effort to boost the county’s overall economy by aiding agricultural enterprises — particularly food production.

Shelly Parini, Clackamas Community College dean of advanced placement, was named as co-leader.

The move was unexpected because Kitzhaber is providing matching funding for a Clackamas County project concept called ONEStop. Funds are directed through the Oregon Solutions project, which usually takes on contentious issues.

But ONEStop is not contentious, said county Ag and Forest Economic Development Manager Rick Gruen, who is working with Schrader on ONEStop.

“This is something we could have done by ourselves,” Gruen said, “but by leveraging resources with Oregon Solutions it saves the county some money and it raises the project’s visibility in the county and region.”

“We think that if we can do this,” Schrader said, “we can have our (producers) get a piece of (the revenue) that’s already being spent here.”

The expectation is to gain a 10 percent increase in production and sales through import substitution. Research has shown there is between $4 billion and $5 billion spent in all aspects of the metro area’s food system.

“That 10 percent should have an impact on the gross domestic product of the county,” Gruen said, “and stimulate economic activity.”

Gruen is quick to say this county project is a concept, and it will be developing when its partners gather and they decide how to implement ONEStop.

“We’re now developing an owner’s manual,” he said, “to show how to implement the ONEStop concept. This doesn’t do us any good unless it gets on the ground and is working — where we’re working with producers and processors.”

Schrader said there would be six meetings with the partners to determine how to make the plan work well for everyone.

The goal is to maintain and improve the viability of agricultural industries within the county, Gruen said, because research has shown there is a direct connection between agriculture and other industries.

The concept is to get people from all phases of agricultural production, from farmer’s field to consumer, in one room to share needs and concerns and offer resources and solutions.

The connection provided by ONEStop, however, is only at the virtual level. That room where all partners meet is planned as a virtual room.

Partners from various phases of the industry would have access to that room where they could either offer or request resources or services that would make everyone’s job easier or more efficient.

“There may be producers who need access to technical assistance or financing or legal assistance or land use and zoning,” Gruen said. “They may be looking for education such as peer-to-peer training or ways to bring newcomers who want to farm onto the land.”

Gruen said the ONEStop model also has the potential of linking small-acreage growers with large-acreage growers, offering more opportunities.

“Imagine the virtual ONEStop with departments such as education or finance,” he said. “If, for example, a producer wanted a small loan, the lending partner might want assurance available from another partner that would provide a farm management plan to enhance the farmer’s ability to repay the loan.

“If this ONEStop model is successful,” Gruen said, “it could be replicated in other parts of the state.”

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