Malheur County’s Border Board gets another $6 million for local projects

Some of the taxpayer cash allotted to the Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Board from the Oregon Legislature could be used to help the county pay costs associated with a land deal for a rail reload center north of Nyssa. (The Enterprise/PAT CALDWELL)

ONTARIO – Malheur County may be able to pay off the loan it took out to buy industrial land in Nyssa as part of a large cash infusion appropriated recently by legislators.

The Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Board will receive $6 million from the Oregon Legislature as part of the $1.4 billion state budget bill approved by lawmakers during the session that ended earlier this month.

Rep. Mark Owens, R-Crane, said one idea for the money is to use $1.3 million to help Malheur County cover costs associated with a land deal it made at the rail reload facility site north of Nyssa.

In 2019, the Malheur County Court paid $3 million for 290 acres of land to serve as home for the Treasure Valley Reload Center and a new county industrial park. The court paid for the deal by tapping its contingency, or emergency, fund for $1 million and borrowing $2.4 million loan from Biz Oregon, the state’s economic development.

Owens said the original request to the legislature for the border board money was $5 million but another million was added to “have that conversation” about helping the county with its land debt.

“It’s a discussion that the border board and the county will have to have,” said Owens.

Shawna Peterson, the board’s executive director, said no decision has been made about where the funds will go.

“As far as the border board works, we just have our programs but that doesn’t mean some entity couldn’t come to the board and pitch something,” said Peterson.

A case, said Peterson, could be made to the border board by the county for some of the funds approved by lawmakers.

“The board would have to decide if it would be of good use. It is just one idea,” said Peterson.

Peterson said the $6 million approved by lawmakers for the border board was welcome.

“We think this is recognition because we’ve proven ourselves as a good vehicle to make strategic investments in economic development in the border region,” said Peterson.

Now, said Peterson, the border board promotes 10 loan and grant programs for economic development plans and projects locally.

“I am really excited they gave us such a huge amount. We can really make an impact,” said Peterson.

The border board was created in 2017 and offers a range of grant and loan programs.

For example, area residents, business, governments and nonprofit organizations are eligible for the Scot Fairley Memorial Edge Grant. The grant offers up to $25,000 to those who can demonstrate economic development through innovative and creative solutions. The grant application is open until March 31 then opens again between Aug. 1 and September 30.

The board also offers grants in workforce training – up to $100,000 – and a $100,000 improvement planning subsidy for local governments within the border region. The planning grant is designed to help cities create master, transportation and parks plans.

The board’s competitive housing incentive program allows owners of newly constructed, owner-occupied homes within the border region to receive up to $6,000. Under the program a homeowner is also eligible to submit a paid property tax receipt each year to be reimbursed up to $1,500 annually for up to 10 years.

The board consist of chair Tiffany Cruickshank, Bill Johnson, owner of Loft Property Management, Dana Young, Treasure Valley Community College president, Roberto Gamboa, of Euvalcree and Ron Haidle, the retired president of Malheur Federal Credit Union.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected].

Previous coverage:

Malheur County OKs $1 million to seal land deal as citizens have their say

Malheur County scrapes one land deal as reload dates get extended

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