Business & economy, Uncategorized

Border board looks at ways to spend $6 million

ONTARIO – The public body established to grow the economy along the Malheur County and Idaho border is mulling how to spend the $6 million it received from the Oregon Legislature. 

State lawmakers allocated the money to the Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Board – known as the Border Board –  in the 2022 Oregon legislative session. 

In addition to reviewing results from a four-question survey that went out to residents in the county in July, the board has been holding public meetings with local leaders in education, business and other public agencies, according to Shawna Peterson, board’s executive director.

The board heard from 50 residents through the survey and listening sessions. Those sessions have prompted the board to list five priority areas where it may allocate the funds through a combination of loans and grants, Peterson said in an email.  

She said that those areas include leadership development, resources for new businesses and startups, coordinating with other agencies to address homelessness and mental health, and making utilities and broadband more accessible to new companies or those looking to expand in the region.  

Some of the priority areas are more developed than others. 

For instance, Peterson said the leadership program the board has in mind resembles Oregon’s Resource Education and Agricultural Leadership Program. She expects the board to create a committee to determine how best to provide resources to new businesses and startups. 

Peterson noted that when it comes to coordinating with agencies on addressing homelessness and mental illness, at this stage, the board has concluded that those issues impede economic development along the border. She said the board has been working with other regional entities to quantify the issue. 

“We do not know at this point what is needed, what agencies would be involved, or how the border board could help,” Peterson said. 

As for making broadband and utilities more readily available for new and existing businesses in the area, Peterson said the board is looking to create a land inventory and readiness report. The idea is to speed up building and development on regional parcels of land. Peterson said that often business development depends on access to utilities, broadband and other resources. 

The board is looking to identify what commercial land needs such services.

What’s next? 

Peterson said the board is continuing to research and develop the priorities over the next several months and ultimately decide if and to what extent it would fund the priority areas.  

According to the border board’s April meeting minutes, Sen. Lynn Findley told the members that the $6 million does not have any strings attached. 

Peterson said people can still take the survey online at 

News tip? Contact reporter Steven Mitchell at [email protected].

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