Getting to know the candidates: Tillamook County Board of Commissioners – Part 5 of 6

The Tillamook County Pioneer sent a series of questions to the Tillamook County Board of Commissioner candidates. We compiled these questions based on input from various community leaders. The Tillamook County Pioneer will publish the answers in a series. This is PART 5 of the six part series. Here are the candidates answers to Question #5:

5. How will you approach economic development in the county?

Economic development is essential to our economy. I am very encouraged that the Economic Development Council has contracted with Val Folkema to develop a strategic plan for the EDC. Val’s leadership and expertise are invaluable and we are lucky to have her in that role. Economic development has many facets, one of which is housing. We can’t very well attract a big new business to open at the Port of Tillamook Bay, for example, if there is no housing available for their workforce. Currently there is an expansion underway at the Tillamook Country Smoker. Mayor Shaena Peterson said that they hope to hire over 100 new workers, which is great news for Tillamook County! But we have to ask ourselves, where will they live? I look forward to working on the issue of housing as it relates to economic development, collaborating with Val Folkema and supporting the work of the EDC as commissioner.

I have worked with the Tillamook County Enterprise Zone for the last 10 years and with numerous directors of the Economic Development Council over this time. I would ensure that this is a priority and that the EDC promotes this and educates the new and existing businesses of this great incentive that encourages job growth. The zone is up for renewal in 2019. Also there are many other state programs out there and I would bring representatives to the table.

We must respect the past, while adapting to changes. Dairy farming has specialized, while local organic farms provide fresh food for our tables. Our fishing industry has integrated tourism more than any other local industry. Sustainable forest management practices are clearly the way of the future.
My approach to economic development is two-pronged: first integrating tourism into our existing economy, so that the services tourists need are the services we also use, and tourism jobs become year-round jobs that support families.
Second building long-term sustainability, including maximizing our potential to use our forests for carbon sequestration to replace revenues previously provided through timber harvest.

One of my community service roles has been as a member of the Tillamook Revitalization Association where we promoted local businesses and provided support as needed. As the cornerstone of a well-functioning economy, attraction/development of new business, retention and/or expansion of existing businesses are primary functions of economic development. I believe this can be accomplished while at the same time preserving our natural resources and agricultural heritage; co-existence is possible among agriculture, commerce and tourism. More specifically to the question, as the only candidate who attended the last Tillamook Economic Development Council (EDC) meeting, I can report many great things are happening. EDC is currently updating its strategic plan. With EDC and the Small Business Development Center now functioning as separate entities, I expect we’ll see some great things moving forward. I intend to remain engaged in this effort.

The way in which I would approach Economic Development is by going over the housing plan, and collaborating with city planning commissions, investors, property owners and builders who would have ideas on how to implement this process. This will take time, but is of the upmost importance to our County. New industry is another important issue for Tillamook County, making it inviting for businesses to want to come into our community.

As a county, we must continue to support and fund economic development. However, we cannot simply throw money at someone and say “Here! Go do economic development”. We must approach economic development like any public policy; with a purpose and a plan. We must decide as a community what our priorities are in business growth, retention and development. This can be done through consultation with business leaders and owners, chambers of commerce, elected officials and the public. When we set our priorities, we can then provide them to those who are charged with spearheading economic development for our county,as well as what we expect deliverables to be, and what timeline we expect them to be achieved in. If we don’t approach economic development with a plan, we cannot be surprised when piecemeal efforts fail.