Oregon governor seeks first-hand testimony from Malheur County economic development panel

Gov. Kate Brown is scheduled to visit Ontario March 1 to visit with the Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Board. (The Enterprise/File).

ONTARIO – Gov. Kate Brown will meet with the Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Board in Ontario next month.

While details are still being finalized, Shawna Peterson, border board chair, said Brown is tentatively set to be in town March 1 for a luncheon with board members at Jolts & Juice Company, 298 S. Oregon St.

“Gov. Brown has a full itinerary, as I understand it, to see firsthand the issues and work being done in our region,” said Peterson via email.

The board – created in 2017 by the Legislature – is designed to spark economic growth along the border region of Oregon and Idaho in Malheur County. The state earmarked $5 million toward that effort.

The board includes seven local people, each serving a four-year term.

Peterson sees the governor’s visit as an opportunity for the board.

“We want to show the governor how diligent we have been in identifying economic development and workforce issues in the border region and developing ways to address them,” said Peterson.

The border board spent most of last year crafting proposed legislation to address economic issues in Malheur County. Five bills, sponsored by Rep. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, are now in legislative committees.

The bills run the gamut from opening more land for housing to simplifying certifications for high-skilled trades such as electrician contractors and career and technical education teachers, as well as seeking money for broadband service.

The proposal to open up more land for housing – HB 2456 – already received one hearing before the House Committee on Agriculture and Land Use, Peterson said.

Peterson said the governor’s visit was initiated by the governor. It is timely, she said, offering a chance to talk with Brown about the legislation and to show that the board is worth the state’s investment.

“It is my hope to convey that our ideas deserve a chance. It would be a shame to have created our board and funded it with $5 million and then not listen to our input, especially on policy matters,” said Peterson.

Board member Tiffany Cruickshank called it a rare opportunity for “us to share what we’ve been working and promote the border region.”

“Hopefully, we will garner her support on some of our projects and programs,” said Cruickshank.

Stuart Reitz, Malheur County Extension agent and board member, said Brown’s visit sends a message.

“If she is here, she obviously has eastern Oregon on her radar and that is good,” he said.

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