In small rural towns, we are often asked what we are doing to promote economic development. Understanding what economic development really is, is the key to our success.
Economic development is providing the positive cash flow to build an economic base for a community. It is a circular process in which business supports a community, which supports the businesses. One does not exist without the other. Attracting businesses that produce a product or service that brings in funds from outside of the area is the goal. In order to sustain our community we have to have an economic base — a product or service that is needed or sought by others from outside of our great community. So, how do we as a community go about attracting these types of businesses?
In Elgin, we have taken on a goal to improve our community and quality of life to attract business. We go about this by offering the best city services we can such as water, sewer, public works and law enforcement. We also work with others to provide medical services and quality education. We must also partner with our established local businesses who provide basic necessities – everything from food and gas to other personal services.
The other entities that make a community attractive are the many clubs, organizations and churches. We as a city must continue to support these organizations to help keep them strong because they are vital to our community.
Probably our easiest example of a business that produces an economic base for us is Boise Cascade. The lumber that is produced here in Elgin does not stay here. It is sold throughout the country providing jobs and a tax base for our town.
Another great example is the Elgin Opera House. We love to go watch the productions and be entertained. The fact that folks from outside of our little town, come here, enjoy the performances (sometimes by performing) and in the process support other local businesses fits the definition of a business that adds to our economic base.
We are blessed to have Eastern Oregon University in our county. It provides higher education for those from our community as well as from far away. This allows our people — whether young or older — to gain the wealth of an education and remain here and enrich our community. EOU also provides valuable information and help to our businesses and community, such as assisting in the development of business plans, research and providing interns.
We must work with our local chamber of commerce to promote our community. They are the ambassadors for Elgin – the eyes and ears for our business owners.
As mayor, I have also continued to meet with other leaders in our area, from the Union County Commissioners, other mayors and councilors, the Union County Chamber of Commerce, and others officials from our county, state and national government. I do this with the goal of not only promoting our community, but our county as well. The meetings shed light on the needs and goals that we are each working toward.
The county recently held an economic summit where many different government and private organizations met to share information about their services and programs. This was a valuable time to learn what services and financing they could offer to help communities and businesses looking to relocate. We must also promote local entrepreneurship. It is the backbone of the American dream.
Economic development is providing an economic base to support our community. When we take on economic development, many people and ideas are involved – that is community. Many coming together for the benefit of all.