Economic Development Resources for Rural Oregon

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Economic Development Resources for Rural Oregon

By Chris Marko, Rural Development Specialist, Rural Community Assistance Corporation, May, 2015

Economic development means many things to many people and for rural communities it involves understanding, and engaging, community with economy. Over the past 20 years Oregon has invested in strategies to foster economic diversification due to shifts in the timber economy. There were extensive efforts and resources to support coordination and collaboration around economic development in the 1990’s. While the economic development landscape has changed, and we went through an economic downturn there are efforts to continue, and revitalize, efforts to coordinate and collaborate on economic development for rural Oregon. Also, there has been a trend emerging in economic development over the past decade to further support small business, micro enterprises, entrepreneurship, and local businesses. Agencies, organizations, communities, and elected leaders are looking at issues of how to retain youth in communities, how to create and sustain local jobs, wealth transfer, and how to bring additional value to businesses and create and sustain wealth. Resources are essential to help support economic development, sustaining local capacity for economic development, access to capital for business development, and more. This article is a brief summary of some programs (by no means exhaustive), organizations, and initiatives to support local economic development in rural communities of Oregon—it is not meant to be exclusive but rather to highlight resources for reference.


USDA Rural Development

USDA Rural Development is a multi-faceted agency with many programs for rural community economic development and local business. Core programs include Rural Business-Cooperative Service, Rural Housing Service, and Community Programs including Rural Utilities Service programs. Business programs include Business and Industry Loan Guarantees, Intermediary Relending Program, which provides loan capital to local organizations for lending to businesses for community development projects, Rural Business Development Grants which combines former Rural Business Enterprise Grants - RBEG, and Rural Business Opportunity Grants – RBOG, Rural Microenterpreneur Assistance Program, Value Added Producer Grants, and Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) to name a few. Recently USDA Rural Development announced $30 million available for Food Entrepreneurs and Agriculture Producers to develop new products. For more information about USDA Rural Development programs in Oregon contact Jill Rees at 503-414-3302 and visit

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Sustainable Communities Partnership

On June 16, 2009, EPA joined with HUD and DOT to help improve access to affordable housing, more transportation options, and lower transportation costs, and enhance economic competitiveness while protecting the environment in communities nationwide. Through a set of guiding principles and a partnership agreement that guides the agencies' efforts, this partnership coordinates federal housing, transportation, and other infrastructure investments to protect the environment, promote equitable development, and help address the challenges of climate change. Each of these agencies have programs which support community and economic development. For more information on the interagency smart growth and sustainable communities partnership

U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA)

U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) supports economic development through funding programs and support to Oregon's Economic Development Districts. There are 12 economic development districts in Oregon, including Councils of Governments (COG’s). Economic development districts operate regionally, manage, and deliver an abundance of federal and state programs involving a wide range of services to support entrepreneurship, businesses, and workforce. Economic development districts develop Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies (CEDS) in conjunction with U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA). The University of Oregon Community Service Center serves as the EDA University Center for economic development. For more information on EDA in Oregon visit, and for Oregon Economic Development Districts

Small Business Administration (SBA)

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was created in 1953 as an independent agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation. SBA recognizes that small business is critical to our economic recovery and strength, to building America's future, and to helping the United States compete in today's global marketplace. Although SBA has grown and evolved in the years since it was established in 1953, the bottom line mission remains the same. The SBA helps Americans start, build and grow businesses. Through an extensive network of field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations, SBA delivers its services to people throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the U. S. Virgin Islands and Guam. The SBA northwest regional office is located in Seattle with the District Office at 620 SW Main Street Suite 313 Portland, OR 97205. Phone: 503-326-2682. For more information on SBA visit

Small Business Development Centers

The Oregon Small Business Development Center Network (OSBDCN) provides advising, training, online courses and resources for businesses throughout our state. The OSBDCN has 19 conveniently-located Centers to assist business people in every aspect of business development and management. The Oregon Network is a well-established partnership between 17 Oregon community colleges, two state universities, the US Small Business Administration and the Oregon Business Development Department (Business Oregon). For more information on programs and resources visit

US Forest Service

The U.S. Forest Service has a long standing history of supporting communities who depend on natural resources. Among many programs, the USFS offers programs related to biomass projects in Oregon. For more information on regional biomass programs and USFS contact Ron Saranich,


Governor’s Office of Regional Solutions 

The Governor’s approach to community and economic development, established by Executive Order and enacted by House Bill 4015, recognizes the unique needs of each Oregon region, and the importance of working locally to identify priorities, solve problems, and seize opportunities to get projects done.​ Regional Solutions is an innovative, collaborative approach to community and economic development in Oregon. The state, in partnership with Oregon colleges and universities, established 11 Regional Solutions Centers throughout Oregon.  Starting at the local level to identify priorities, each center works from the bottom up to solve problems and complete projects. These centers integrate state agency work and funding to ensure that projects are finished as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.​​ Learn more about Regional Solutions projects in the Regional Solutions Co-Investment Report. For more information contact Annette Liebe at (541) 610-7215, e-mail Also visit to contact your local Regional Solutions Team.

Oregon Business Development Department (“Business Oregon”)

Business Oregon serves as an economic development agency including the Infrastructure Finance Authority (IFA) which administers the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program in Oregon. Business Oregon provides a host of programs and services to support local business and economic development. Innovative finance programs and resources for business development include:

  • Oregon Business Development Fund (OBDF) provides direct loans that leverage private capital and provides incentives for businesses to expand or locate in Oregon.

  • Oregon Capital Access Program (CAP) provides a form of loan portfolio loss reserve so banks may make business loans that carry higher than conventional risks while complying with federal and state banking regulations.

  • Oregon Credit Enhancement Fund (CEF) provides loan guarantees to banks in order to increase capital availability to small businesses.

  • Oregon Industrial Development Bonds (IDB) are available to manufacturing projects, exempt facilities and nonprofit organizations to provide access to capital primarily for value-added manufacturing.

  • Entrepreneurial Development Loan Fund (EDLF) offers direct loans to help start-ups, micro-enterprises and small businesses expand or become established in Oregon.

  • Oregon New Market Tax Credit delivers below-market-rate investment options to Oregon businesses and creates jobs in low-income communities.

  • Brownfields Redevelopment assists by providing financing for activities from site assessment to cleanup for properties where known or suspected environmental contamination is a barrier to redevelopment.

  • Angel funding support and opportunities for investment in entrepreneurs.

For more information on the many programs offered by Business Oregon visit

Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT)

ODOT has several programs which support economic development through transportation construction and enhancement including Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), ConnectOregon, and Transportation and Growth Management (TGM) programs. ODOT has information and guidance for transportation planning. For more information visit

Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD)

DLCD oversees Oregon’s Land Use Planning Program and supports communities in meeting Land Use Planning Goals, including Goal 9 for Economic Development which can be accessed here: DLCD offers grant programs to support land use planning including Period Review and Technical Assistance, Oregon Coastal Management Program, and the Transportation Growth Management (TGM) program (also with ODOT). For more information on DLCD and Land Use Planning go to

Oregon Department of Agriculture

ODA has continued to promote branding for Oregon products and is a key agency for economic development in Oregon. Among many programs ODA’s Market Access and Certification Programs help Oregon's agricultural producers successfully add value, sell, and ship products to local, national, and international markets by promoting and creating demand for products through marketing activities, inspection, and certification. For more information visit

Oregon Housing and Community Services Department

Housing is fundamental for quality of life and economic viability for individuals, families, and communities. OHCSD offers many programs for homeownership, farmworkers, and resources for affordable housing in Oregon. For more information visit

Oregon Main Street Program

Oregon Main Street works with communities to develop comprehensive, incremental revitalization strategies based on a community’s unique assets, character, and heritage. Services are based on the Main Street Approach® by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and include training and technical assistance. For more information


Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC)

RCAC is a private non-profit organization serving 13 states in the West with training, technical assistance, and financing in the areas of environmental infrastructure, affordable housing, and community development finance. In addition to providing training and technical assistance with water and wastewater projects, affordable housing, and financing, RCAC has a new program to further support economic development throughout the West called Building Rural Economies (BRE). BRE focuses on training and assistance for communities to support entrepreneurship, catalytic projects, and creation of businesses and jobs. RCAC is utilizing an approach called Wealth Works with the city of Enterprise to promote value added business opportunities and entrepreneurship support for renovating the OK Theater as a catalytic project for downtown Enterprise. Wealth Works is a comprehensive approach focusing on market demand and values of “capital” (or wealth through “value chain” analysis. RCAC is part of a national Wealth Works Committee and will participate in Rooting Opportunity; Doing Economic Differently sponsored by the Aspen Institute in Washington D.C. June 1 – 2, 2015. RCAC provides leadership training and offers entrepreneurship training and assistance. RCAC is a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and offers business loans. For more information on RCAC in Oregon contact Chris Marko, 503-228-1780, e-mail: Website

Oregon Rural Development Council (ORDC)

The Oregon Rural Development Council (ORDC) is an entity comprised of representatives from federal, state, Tribal, local, non-profit, educational, and business sectors to coordinate rural programs and policy at the state level. There are 28 State Rural Development Councils (SRDC’s) across the country and a national affiliate, Partners for Rural America (PRA). SRDC’s were authorized in the Farm Bill of 2002 to coordinate rural programs and policy at the state and national levels. ORDC has conducted local forums, Rural Oregon Day, and supported partners in their economic development initiatives. ORDC has revitalized its Executive Committee with representation from the Governor’s Office of Regional Solutions, USDA Rural Development, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Forest Service, Oregon Business Council, Rural Development Initiatives (RDI), Oregon State University (OSU), Small Business Development Centers, Oregon Office of Rural Health, and Cow Creek Tribe. Chris Marko from RCAC and Megan Smith from the University of Oregon co-chair the ORDC. ORDC is collaborating with partners, including Regional Solutions, to conduct forums addressing economic development. ORDC collaborates with other SRDC’s in the region and nationally through Partners for Rural America (PRA) which Chris Marko serves on. For more information on ORDC contact Chris Marko, 503-459-7769, or Megan Smith, 541-346-3882,

Oregon Business Council

The Oregon Business Council is an association of more than 40 business community leaders focused on public issues that affect Oregon’s life and future. Founded in 1985, the OBC is patterned after the national Business Roundtable and affiliate organizations in a number of other states. The OBC embraces the vision of the Oregon Business Plan, an economic development forum that calls for growing more well-paying jobs, increasing state per capita income to exceed the national average, and substantially reducing poverty. The Oregon Business Council conducts the Oregon Leadership Summit around the Oregon Business Plan involving hundreds of business leaders, community representatives, agencies, organizations, and Oregon’s State and Federal Leaders. For more information contact Jeremy Rogers at 503-595-7608, e-mail: and visit

Oregon Economic Development Association (OEDA)

The Oregon Economic Development Association (OEDA) is a statewide non-profit organization working to support economic development professionals who are on Oregon's front line in diversifying and expanding Oregon's economy. OEDA advocates, collaborates, and educates to foster the success of its members and their communities, including helping to develop the capacity of Oregon’s economic development professionals through effective training and development programs. OEDA has a Legislative strategy which can be accessed on their website at

Sustainable Northwest

In the early 1990s, fierce division and acrimony prevailed in every corner of the natural resources management sector. Amidst this crisis over how to manage natural resources, Sustainable Northwest was born which started work in Wallowa County. By bringing people together to find common ground, we are healing the land and rebuilding rural economies. Sustainable northwest provides expertise in facilitation, conflict resolution, and negotiation of multi-party agreements. Sustainable Northwest work on economic development related to juniper in Eastern Oregon was highlighted at the Oregon Leadership Summit in January 2015. For more information on Sustainable Northwest contact John Audley (503) 221-6911, or and visit

The Oregon Consortium and Oregon Workforce Alliance

The Oregon Consortium and Oregon Workforce Alliance mission is to Help Rural Oregon Work and collectively we are working to accomplish this by assuring that rural citizens, business and industry have the skills necessary, to compete in the global economy. TOC/OWA relies on a network of partners and to ensure that workforce development services are provided to job seekers in a way that is responsive to the needs of workers, employers and communities. Services include career counseling, training and search assistance. To find out more please visit and Workforce Partners.

League of Oregon Cities (LOC) and Association of Oregon Counties (AOC)

The League of Oregon Cities (LOC) is the go to organization for cities across Oregon, from resources, training, and advocacy, to networking and services for Cities. Like LOC, Association of Oregon Counties (AOC) is a well-established network supporting and advocating for counties in Oregon which has helped create initiatives and services related to economic development, programs, and policy. AOC, like LOC, is a vital resource for local governments. Both annual conferences are must go to events! For more information on LOC visit and AOC

Rural Development Initiatives (RDI)

Rural Development Initiatives (RDI) is an organization which started in the 1980’s to help rural communities with strategic planning and economic diversification in light of shifts in the timber economy. RDI has evolved into a dynamic organization which provides leadership training, economic development, and Wealth Works Northwest, including supporting communities implement the Wealth Works approach to develop value added business using value chain analysis, engaging partners, and resources for these communities. The leadership program has been supported by The Ford Family Foundation and helped hundreds of community people gain leadership skills to positively impact their communities, and the state. RDI also works with the Hometown Competitiveness program through the Heartland Center for Leadership. RDI conducts an annual conference, Regards to Rural, which will be held June 26 – 27, 2015 in Bend. For more information contact about RDI, Wealth Works Northwest, Regards to Rural, and other programs by RDI contact Heidi Khokhar, 541-986-2542

Energy Trust of Oregon

The Energy Trust of Oregon is s resource with programs to help address a changing environment promoting sustainability practices and energy efficiency measures for residents, communities, and businesses. Energy Trust of Oregon is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping utility customers benefit from saving energy and generating renewable power. Energy Trust of Oregon services, cash incentives and solutions have helped participating customers of Portland General Electric, Pacific Power, NW Natural and Cascade Natural Gas save $1.7 billion on their energy bills. Energy Trust of Oregon works to keep energy costs as low as possible and builds a sustainable energy future. For more information see


University of Oregon

The University of Oregon has a lot of resources for economic development. The Department of Planning Public Policy and Management (PPPM) has planning resources where students work on planning projects. The Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) program places graduate and post graduate people in rural communities to work on projects. The community must provide a match to host a RARE person. The U of O also serves as the EDA University Center for Economic Development in Oregon, and local Regional Solutions Center. For more information on the RARE program, University Center for economic development, and U of O programs contact Megan Smith, phone: 541-346-3881.

Oregon State University (OSU)

OSU has the Rural Studies program which supports a variety of community economic development initiatives, including WealthWorks Northwest in collaboration with Rural Development Initiatives (RDI) and other partners. The OSU developed the Rural Community Explorer which is a database tool which can be used to analyze information about rural communities and rural areas, identifying opportunities for economic development. OSU Extension Service supports agriculture and natural resource related projects for community economic development, food systems, and technical support for agriculture throughout Oregon. For more information on the OSU Rural Studies program

Eastern Oregon University (EOU) and Northeast and Greater Eastern Regional Solutions Center

The Northeast and Greater Eastern Regional Solutions Center is working with Eastern Oregon University to support local community economic development in Eastern Oregon through internships. For more information contact Randy Jones with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Regional Solutions Team in La Grande (541) 962-3983, e-mail:

Community Colleges

Community Colleges serve as a resource for economic development, job training, and workforce development, particularly in rural communities. As mentioned the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network works with Community Colleges in Oregon. Visit the Oregon Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development webpage


Native American Tribes are involved with economic development in local areas throughout Oregon, and the region. Tribes often partner with local communities, organizations, and agencies to further promote economic vitality in local regions. There are nine (9) federally recognized Tribes in Oregon. Tribes can be valuable partners in community economic development and sustainability throughout Oregon and the Northwest. The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) is a well established network of Tribes and has information regarding activities, including economic development, regarding Tribes in the region. For more information see, and for Tribal contacts in Oregon also visit


The Ford Family Foundation supports a wide range of activities to help rural communities focusing on children, education, arts, leadership, economy, and community. Located in Roseburg, the Ford Family Foundation covers Oregon and Siskiyou County of California. For more information visit

The Meyer Memorial Trust is a long standing foundation in Oregon which supports arts, culture and the humanities; conservation and the environment; health; human services; and public affairs affordable housing, the Willamette River, and continuum of public education; focuses on leadership development; and support grantees in their policy advocacy work. For more information visit

The Oregon Community Foundation focuses on children and families, civic engagement, arts and culture, economic vitality, and education. Economic vitality includes developing a skilled workforce, investing in quality job creation, improving access to capital for small businesses and nonprofits, and engaging partners and donors in building our state's economy. For more information visit

There are certainly more programs and resources for economic development in Oregon. This summary is intended to share information about a number of key agencies and organizations involved with community and economic development for Rural Oregon to benefit the state of Oregon as a whole.

For more information contact Chris Marko, Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC), phone: 503-228-1780, cell (503) 459-7769, e-mail: Chris also serves as Co-Chair of the Oregon Rural Development Council (ORDC), Treasurer for the Partners for Rural America (PRA), and Vice President of the Community Development Society (CDS) which bridges educational research and best practices in community development worldwide. Chris Marko received the honorable national Ron Shaffer Award for Collaborative Leadership in Rural Development partnership building in 2011.

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