Local economic group zeroes in on mismatches between Oregon, Idaho

Shawna Peterson, chair of the Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Board, listens to Dana Young during a recent meeting. (The Enterprise/File).

ONTARIO – The Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Board recently isolated economic priorities for the local area and assigned members to research each one.

The board is assessing economic and planning needs in a 20-mile area in Malheur County along the Idaho border.

During the past few months the seven-member board charged with developing jobs and boosting the local economy identified six crucial challenges to economic growth locally.

The board will use the priorities a building blocks for legislation in 2019, according to chair Shawna Peterson, an Ontario attorney.

The priorities run the gamut from technical training programs to land use, cost of electricity, public assistance programs and broadband availability.

Subcommittees of the board will tackle each category, study options and develop solutions, said Peterson. Those solutions then can be translated into either potential legislation or used to overhaul existing state regulations.

For example, board members Stuart Reitz, OSU extension agent Dana Young, Treasure Valley Community College president, and Peterson will delve into the differences in trade and professional certification requirements along the border. Such differences between Oregon and Idaho often create more obstacles to economic growth, said Peterson.

One example is in education. Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission requirements are more arduous than Idaho’s.

That, in turn, can mean fewer educators choosing to work in Oregon.

Reitz, Young and Peterson will review laws and regulations and talk with industry leaders, trade associations and licensed professionals to find a way to bridge the certification gap.

“Some things may be addressed through legislation or just changes a regulatory board could make. We are trying to identify what may need to go through the legislative process versus what may just be a change in policy,” said Reitz.

Board members Bill Johnson and Young will tackle another priority – career technical education challenges along the border where insufficient funding often sidelines those programs.

Johnson and board member Priscilla Valero will take on the issue of electricity costs along the border region.

According to the board, higher electricity costs along Oregon’s border put the local area at a disadvantage for large projects.

Board members Tiffany Cruickshank and Ralph Poole, along with Peterson, will review how the differences in land use laws between Idaho and Oregon impact economic development.

Poole and Reitz also will review broadband availability locally while Cruikshank and Valero will investigate whether public assistance programs in Oregon impact the local pool of employees, discouraging people from seeking work.

Reitz said all six categories are complicated.

“None of these are little issues,” said Reitz. “We have to consider how to balance one state’s needs versus another.”

Peterson said she believes the border board is moving in the right direction.

“I think we’ve identified priorities that have a broad impact. The goal, of course, is to make the border region competitive,” said Peterson.

Peterson said the board does not have a fixed deadline on completing the sub-committee work.

“We would like to have our ideas developed by late summer,” said Peterson. “We are still just doing an awful lot of ground work.”

Those on the board are Peterson, a partner in the law firm of Yturri Rose in Ontario; Cruickshank, transportation manager at Snake River Produce Co. Johnson, owner of Loft Property Management; andReitz, extension agent. Poole is chief operating officer of Energy Transport, LLC as well as Campo & Poole Distributing LLC. Valero works for the Eastern Oregon University Ontario Center, and Young is the president of TVCC.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.