Local government

Malheur County hires new economic development director

ONTARIO – Taylor Rembowski wants to focus on the future.

As the new Malheur County economic development director, Rembowski said he wants to first learn the details of his job then concentrate on creating a prosperous economy for the county.

Rembowski steps into the spot once held by Greg Smith. Smith, a state legislator from Heppner, furnished economic development services as a contractor through his firm, Gregory Smith & Company. His company was paid $9,000 a month for its services. Smith served as the economic development director from 2013 until June 2022.

He quit over what he labeled as a “toxic” environment and in the face of continuing investigative work into his actions by the Enterprise. The economic development position remained vacant for more than a year before the Malheur County Court chose Rembowski in October. Rembowski is a county employee.

Rembowski said while he is aware of the controversy surrounding Smith’s tenure and the saga of the Treasure Valley Reload Center, he wants to set his sights on creating future opportunities for the county.

He said, though, the reload facility will be “on the top of my priority list.”

“I don’t know enough about it. It is a very fluid matter and a lot is still being discovered. But I am excited to learn about it,” he said.

Rembowski said he plans to involved with the project and will attend meetings of the Malheur County Development Corp., the public company set up by the county commissioners to oversee the reload center.

Rembowski grew up in Vale. He is also a member of the Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Board. The board is charged with spurring economic development along the Idaho border with Malheur County.

Rembowski believes those his local roots and experience on the border board will help him in his new post.

“My goal is to focus on the future. Focus on county needs. I think the border board was a nice lead-in for me applying for this position,” he said.

Rembowski also has a business background. He owned and operated a marijuana dispensary in Bend from 2015 to 2018. Before that he worked as a commercial developer in Bend.

“I have a lot of background in how municipalities work for permitting, traffic studies, system development charges and infrastructure impacts by potential businesses,” he said.

After he sold his dispensary, Rembowski came back to Vale and established a freight broker business.

“I moved produce throughout the country. That gives me an insight into local agriculture and transportation,” he said.  “I am from Vale. I have a vested interest in this county. I would like to be part of its future.”

While his short-term goal is to learn his job, Rembowski said he is eager to make a difference.

“I would like this county to maximize on the transportation that comes through here. I would like to see the county maximize the economic prospects of our recreation. I would also like to maximize our agriculture but also be innovative in bringing in new trades and industry,” he said.

Rembowski, 42, said a big part of his job will talking to local officials.

“Whether its city managers, commissioners, local business development coalitions and business owners, I want listen to their needs,” he said.

He said economic growth is crucial.

“I am going to focus on growth in industry to create more tax revenue and to create the best business and municipality growth we can,” he said.

Rembowski said he finds his motivation through helping people. He said helping someone find success is “very fulfilling.”

He said his most significant moment in his career was when he was offered the job of economic development director.

“I am proud of my honesty, my family and my ability to chase whatever my heart desires and be passionate about it,” he said.

Rembowski’s office is at 316 Goodfellow St. in Ontario.

Jim Mendiola, Malheur County commissioner, said he believes Rembowski will be a “good fit.”

“I’m excited. Because he is a local kid and he knows what needs to happen. He wants to do a good job for the local people. He is not out for him but for us,” said Mendiola.

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

Previous coverage:

Smith resigns from Nyssa rail project management

A year after Greg Smith resigned, county still hasn’t hired a new economic development director

Malheur County says Smith cost it nearly $70,000, wants his company to pay up