By Les Zaitz
A new state board will soon get to work figuring how to make Malheur County more competitive against less-regulated businesses and developments across the river in Idaho.
Gov. Kate Brown Tuesday announced her seven appointees to Oregon Border Economic Development Board, all with deep experience in business and education. They are:
• Shawna Peterson, an Ontario attorney who will chair the board.
• Tiffany Cruickshank, transportation manager for Snake River Produce in Nyssa. Cruickshank has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in business, taught business classes at Nyssa High School, and has been at Snake River Produce since 2010. She and her husband farm near Adrian.
• Ralph Poole, CEO of Campo and Poole Distributing and president of Norm Poole Oil. He graduated from Oregon State University and has been in the family business since 1979. He currently chairs the Ontario Planning Commission.
• Bill Johnson, land owner and former Microsoft executive. Johnson grew up in Vale and graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At Microsoft, he led the design of Excel 3.0. Until recently, he operated Sage Farms.
He is a founding member of Malheur County Poverty to Prosperity and is a board trustee at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande.
• Dana Young, president of Treasure Valley Community College. She graduated from Eastern Oregon University and got her master’s degree from Portland State University. She worked at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton and Northwest College in Wyoming before taking over as president of the Ontario college in 2010.
• Priscilla Valero, director of Eastern Oregon University’s regional center in Ontario. A native of Nyssa, she graduated from the University of Oregon and worked at Treasure Valley Community College from 2008 until 2014, when she was hired by Eastern Oregon University.
• Stuart Reitz, Oregon State University extension agent in Malheur County. Reitz has degrees from the University of South Alabama and Clemson University, including his doctorate. He was a research entomologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Florida from 1999 to 2012 and then he became an extension agent in Malheur County.
The board was the brain child of state Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, and House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland. The two persuaded the Legislature to establish the board through House Bill 2012 with the duty to examine laws and regulations that put the border region of Malheur County at a disadvantage with Idaho.
A key task is providing for regulatory relief. The regional board in particular will recommend changes in land use laws that impede economic development and worker training.
The board also has $5 million to use for economic development projects.
The approach is unusual because of the potential for Malheur County to be excused from certain state regulations that apply to the rest of the state. Idaho’s minimum wage is lower than Oregon’s and restrictions on real estate development are considerably lighter.
Peterson said she sees the differences every day in her work as a business lawyer. She is managing partner of Ytrurri Rose, where she has been since 2004. She grew up in Weiser.
“As a business attorney in private practice serving clients in both Oregon and Idaho, I deal almost daily with the competing economies and policies of our border situation,” Peterson wrote in her application to Brown for the appointment.
“Idaho has a lot less structure and rules, which can be flexible but also unpredictable,” Peterson told the Malheur Enterprise. “Oregon is the opposite – predictably inflexible.”
Peterson earned a bachelor’s degree from Gonzaga University and her law degree from Lewis & Clark College. She has been practicing law since 2002, but took a break to spend nearly three years as an executive with Saint Alphonsus Health System.
She told the governor that she and her husband Ben, a local dentist, have been active in the Ontario community.
“We have three young children and have a vested interest in securing their future, as well as our own personal and professional futures,” Peterson wrote. “Many of our peers have fled Ontario and Malheur County and our community is poorer, financially and socially.”
Peterson hopes to use her service on the new board to arrest that.
“My goal for this board is to identify where Oregon’s rules are not one-size-fits-all and create a hardship or barriers for border communities like ours, and then to craft solutions that work better,” she told the Enterprise.