558 N. Main St., Prineville, OR 97754 | (541) 447-6205
Chamber and EDCO should combine their leadership
October 08, 2012
Right now, the economic development leadership in our community is undergoing major changes.
EDCO just hired Russ Deboodt as its new economic development manager for Crook County following the departure of Jason Carr, who had held the post for five years. At the same time, the Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce searches for a replacement for its CEO position, now that Bill Gowen has left.
Taking nothing away from Deboodt and whomever steps in at the Chamber, we believe the Chamber and EDCO should consider a different form of leadership.
We feel the two organizations should combine their efforts and hire one person to lead them both.
During a recent “What’s Brewing?” meeting, EDCO Executive Director Roger Lee noted that the Chamber’s primary objective is to help the non-traded sector. This means they support tourism and other industries like food and retail that promote spending within Prineville. EDCO, conversely, focuses on the traded sector, seeking to develop industries like manufacturing and technology that produce goods sold in other locations.
We believe that economic development leadership should focus on both sectors as a combined package. The service and tourism industries make a community more attractive to prospective companies, and the wealth created by the traded sector can in turn help fund tourism efforts.
We further contend that a single leader could improve both sectors in the community better than divided leadership.
The change not only makes good economic sense, it would benefit EDCO from a financial standpoint. Lee said that the regional organization receives funding akin to local animal control — in other words, nowhere near enough to recruit companies as effectively as they could.
Combining financial resources could provide enough funds to snare that company they might have otherwise missed.
We are not the only one that believes economic development could benefit from unified leadership. Lee said that EDCO has considered the idea in the past. They have, however, declined to move that direction because they feel it would leave that leader spread too thin. Lee said the work of the Chamber might distract from work on EDCO projects or vice-versa, consequently weakening the leadership of each organization.
While we agree that the idea comes with that risk, we would counter that the right leader could overcome that dilemma and actually do a better job for both organizations. Whoever took the post would have intimate knowledge of both the traded and non-traded sectors and could develop a strategy that helps the two sides work in concert.
Of course, to draw able candidates, the Chamber and EDCO must make the position as financially attractive as possible. Other communities are presumably looking for economic development leaders of their own, and may make offers that are tough to refuse.
This would more than likely require the City of Prineville and Crook County to increase their level of economic development funding. In turn, it’s only fair that they have a greater say in who is chosen for the job.
Even though it appears the Chamber and EDCO plan to continue separate leadership in the future, we feel they should give unified leadership serious consideration. With the right person at the helm, we feel the community would benefit from the change.