The weekend was full of lots more driving and some sightseeing, but most importantly time to recharge the batteries after an incredibly demanding week. There was probably no better place to do it than in Oregon (photo of Smith Rock).
Many of the people I’ve spoken to in Idaho and Oregon talk about the Oregon Trail, which previously I knew nothing about. Can you imagine emigrating over 2,000 miles in a horse for 4-6 months? Then get to the mighty Columbia River and being faced with a decision of whether to the run one of two gauntlets – down the river or over the mountains! Learning more about the pioneers in the US puts into perspective the country it is today and it helps place life into perspective.
Staying in Bend, Oregon showed what is possible when towns are faced with changes in industry. Bend was founded as a logging town and now has a massive tourism industry, a growing technology sector and is a popular place to retire. My meeting destination for today, The Dalles, Oregon is similar. It’s been a trading town for 10,000 years but what trades hands is changing, from wool to aluminium and now technology. Insitu started here and now has 800 employees whilst Google also located their first data centre here (one factor that helped was access to energy). In the face of adversity communities are playing to their strengths and being creative to enable industry to develop. The only constant is that change will keep happening. How do recognize when that change is coming and what do you do?
The MCEED has been going since 1969, which shows how young economic development is in NZ. They serve five Counties in two different states so collaboration is their strong point. Amanda and the team focus on:
- business financing, which has great payback and is changing with the likes of crowdfunding. They explained the concept of Enterprise zones and how it can be used when a community is economically distressed through either high unemployment or low wages.
- Industry development. Jessica talked about the GTA as an example of industry collaborating in a cluster. I suspect we will hear a lot more about STEM youth robotics, it is definitely preparing kids to work in the workforce of the future (or is that today?).
- Regional coordination including strategy and ensuring enabling infrastructure is provided like transport, broadband, and financing.
From the outside looking in the team were deliberate about where future lies and I can see a lot of potential for this region as different industries continue to intersect.
The Dalles Port
Started in 1933, The Dalles Port has seen a lot of change. They focus on bringing jobs to region through land sales and it’s fair to say they’ve succeeded. Google is the high profile one but many of the other businesses are “small business” . As an aside, it makes you wonder about classification of small business – how useful is it knowing that 97% of businesses are small, perhaps we can make it more commonly known the difference between no employees, micro (1-5 people) and small (6-19 people)?
Andrea and Kathy had some great insights:
- Places need to find their niche – sounds easy!
- Time and perseverance
- Importance of community support, which I get the sense there is a lot of in The Dalles
- Collaboration with local agencies, putting together a team to work through problems while cutting through bureaucracy
The Dalles is just over an hour outside of Portland, and we discussed how urban people can perceive places outside cities as “rural”…how do you overcome that perception, whether you’ve reinvented yourself or not?