Business & economy, Local government, Special Reports

County’s marketing material sends businesses to leaders no longer in office – and one who has died

VALE – The box of folders delivered to the Malheur County Court last month seemed to be just a bland set of documents transferred from the economic development department as its director, Greg Smith, closed up shop.
The folders, crafted by the team managed by Smith, were designed to market Malheur County to employers considering relocating to the local area.
But information in the marketing material was significantly outdated, listing people in public office long gone and providing information about bank branches closed years ago.
County officials couldn’t explain when the material was produced or who it had been handed out to.
Smith, operating through his private company, had been under contract since 2013 to provide economic development services.
For his fee of $9,000 a month, Smith was supposed to “develop current flyers, brochures and materials to market and promote Malheur County” and “ensure that information provided for incentives such as tax incentives, enterprise zone and wage incentives is accurate and complete.”

“Greg was running around with so many irons in the fire I don’t think he was keeping close tabs on what he was doing.”

– Malheur County Commissioner Don Hodge

Smith didn’t respond to recent questions from Malheur County Judge Dan Joyce on how many marketing brochures were given out in the 2021-2022 fiscal year that ended in July – or whether the brochures were the most recent version.
Any employer relying on that material could run into dead ends.
Each folder contained an undated letter of greeting from the county commissioners. The letter was signed by Joyce and commissioners Don Hodge and Larry Wilson.
Wilson hasn’t been a county commissioner since January 2021. He was replaced by Ron Jacobs.
Other outdated references included:
• Listing the director of the Malheur County Planning Department as Alvin Scott. Scott retired from that position more than two years ago.
• For the county road department, Richard Moulton is listed as the road master. Moulton also retired more than a year ago.
• Jacobs is still listed as the state watermaster, a position he retired from in 2019.

• The Adrian School District superintendent is listed as Gene Mills, who died in 2018.
• Listed as the Nyssa School District superintendent is Jana Iverson. She retired in 2019.
• Branch information is listed for Umpqua Bank outlets in Vale and Nyssa. They closed in 2019.
County officials excused the folders despite the requirements of Smith’s contract.
“It doesn’t surprise me if the information is dated. Greg was running around with so many irons in the fire I don’t think he was keeping close tabs on what he was doing,” said Hodge.
Joyce said last week the information in the folders was outdated because the Covid pandemic forced the economic development department to shift its outreach efforts online. Joyce said the folders were not handed out because there was a fear, early on in the pandemic, that people would be exposed to the infection from the documents.
Joyce said that as long as the economic development department was handling its contacts online then Smith was following his contract to have updated marketing materials.
“If it is online, it’s updated,” he said.
The county’s economic development department website, however, doesn’t contain any such marketing materials. Instead, it provides links to three city websites – and no direct information about key officials in county government.

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

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