How can you support your New Natural Resource Economy?

By Aniko Drlik-Muehleck and Mike Hibbard

For over a year, the CSC has been partnering with the Greater Eastern Oregon Development Corporation (GEODC) and Northeast Oregon Economic Development District (NEOEDD) to identify ways to strengthen Eastern Oregon’s New Natural Resource Economy (NNRE). The NNRE is a complement to conventional natural resource and agriculture enterprises. NNRE businesses (which are usually very small – five employees or less) use natural resources in innovative ways to create new products such as biomass and lumber from juniper and tap into new markets such as farm-to-table agriculture and ecotourism. These new products and markets provide new sources of jobs and capital, especially for rural communities.

After interviewing and surveying NNRE businesses and economic development specialists across Eastern Oregon, the project team is now releasing a report documenting issues facing NNRE businesses and opportunities to better support these businesses. See the final report (short version and full version) below and learn more about the New Natural Resource Economy! These results will also be shared and discussed during a series of workshops in Eastern Oregon this September.

It is important to note that the NNRE is not unique to Eastern Oregon. It is an under-recognized but common component of many rural economies that are tied to natural resources. As such, we encourage anyone working in economic development or natural resources in rural Oregon and beyond to take a look at our findings and consider ways to support your local NNRE enterprises.

Special thanks to the Ford Family Foundation, the Meyer Memorial Trust, and the Oregon Community Foundation for funding this project.

Never Say No

By Norah Owings

Talent is a small city 20 miles from the California border tucked between Ashland and Medford in the Rogue Valley. It often doesn’t stand out from the large city of Medford that boasts most of the infrastructure and needs of the valley or the niche market of the Shakespearean Ashland. However, if you happen to take exit 21 off I5 you just might fall in love with this dedicated and passionate community just like I did.

Adjusting to a new community is hard, especially when you’re in an area you’ve never been before. You need to learn the culture of the area, any important people who can help you, as well as figuring out where the best grocery store is. It may take you a week to get your bearings, or you could be like me and not full adjust until month 4. Although you might not feel fully comfortable and not know exactly what you’re doing, the best thing I learned during my time in Talent was to never say no to any opportunity you’re invited to. Whether that is city council every other Wednesday at 6:45 or the small community group that meets in the town hall to discuss zero waste or weed abatement. It may feel awkward and weird at first, but it will help you in the long run understand your community and see who the key players are.

One of the first things I agreed to was to have a booth at the annual Harvest Festival, which was less than a month into my project. It was one those situations where you really don’t want to, you don’t even know what the Harvest Fest is and you don’t even know what you’re exactly supposed to have at this booth. But in the end you throw something together show up an hour early to set up and have an amazing day. I got to talk to citizens, volunteers, council members, and staff all within a 6-hour period in a place that I never would have if I hadn’t agreed to have a booth.

The first city committee meeting I went to was the complete opposite of my Harvest Festival experience. It was HEATED. I was also the only person in there who wasn’t part of their group. Within the first 10 minutes I was like what did I get myself into?! There were arguments about things I had no idea about and deep discussions about plans they had been working on for months. However, I learned that some of these people I would be working alongside with for my entire program. A group of dedicated volunteers wanting to make their community the best town in Jackson County.

No matter the occasion or whether you think you should be there if you’re invited to something or you see an event that you’re interested go! This is your time to make the contacts and learn about your community. The individuals in those first meetings I see now on a weekly basis and have become great colleagues and friends. It has made me one of the passionate dedicated volunteers working to create a better Talent.

A little bit about Norah Owings:

  • B.S. in Environmental Economics and Policy and a Minor in Natural Resources – Oregon State University
  • People may be surprised when they learn that I appeared in Time Magazine
  • One of my most significant accomplishment was my internship at the Corvallis Environmental Center. I was hired to intern for community outreach and event planning for the annual Cooped Up in Corvallis where people got to tour local chicken coops.