Kulongoski shows Community Solutions can work

August 07, 2003 12:00 am

Among the challenges to Oregon's state economic development efforts in recent years has been the State of Oregon.

An economic developer or private entrepreneur could get a company on the line but fail to land it due to the maze of regulating and permitting agencies in Oregon state goverment.

In effect, the state confounded its own efforts to grow Oregon's economy by putting the sales pitchers on the prowl — only to lure the prospect into a cage with pencil pushers.

Former-Gov. John Kitzhaber deserves credit for pushing a bold initiative, Community Solutions, that brought together key state agencies — transportation, economic development, environmental quality — in one room and charged them with the task of making economic development happen.

It sounded good.

But would it work?

For Eastern Oregon, at least, that question had lingered past Kitzhaber's administration and into the doldrums of the state budget crisis. As faith in government floundered, the idea that Community Solutions was anything more than one more meeting to spoil with tax dollars threatened to eclipse the vision.

What a world of difference a phone call can make.

Competing for a bio-refinery that planned to located somewhere in the Treasure Valley, Community Solutions had helped Malheur County win the interest of the company in the Ontario area, pitting Oregon and Idaho against each other for the facility.

The deciding factor? Zoning and tax breaks influenced the decision, for certain, but the board of Treasure Valley Renewable Resources received a telephone pitch from a high-ranking state official.

You might say the highest ranking state official: Gov. Ted Kulongoski himself dialed up the company and made the pitch for Oregon.

For folks who predicated Kulongoski would be Kitzhaber II — well, that insult turns out to be an asset for Oregon. Rather than abandoning the former governor's plan, our new governor went the extra mile to make it work.

Way to go, gov.