Tag: Economic Development Administration

Exploring Northeast Oregon’s New Natural Resource Economy

By Aniko Drlik-Muehleck

In the lull before the finals week storm (or rather, in the midst of preparing for that storm), first year planning graduate students Aiden Forsi, Michael Graham, and Steph Nappa headed off on a whirlwind tour of Northeast Oregon. Their mission: to gain firsthand experience with the “New Natural Resource Economy.”

The new WHAT, you ask? Good question. PPPM Professor Emeritus Mike Hibbard and his research colleague Dr. Sue Lurie have been investigating what they call the new, or next, natural resource economy, aka NNRE, for many years. As part of a year-long project funded by Meyer Memorial Trust, the Ford Family Foundation, and the Oregon Community Foundation, Professor Hibbard and Dr. Lurie are partnering with the CSC to engage graduate students in an applied economic development project centered on the NNRE in Eastern Oregon.

Students Steph Nappa, Michael Graham, and Aiden Forsi get a tour of Stein Distillery with Professor Mike Hibbard and Dan Stein.

But what is the new natural resource economy? For the long answer, we suggest you read Professor Hibbard’s and Dr. Lurie’s 2013 article in Society & Natural Resources. In brief, however, the NNRE is comprised of small businesses using natural resources in innovative ways that emphasize environmental stewardship. These businesses are contributing to new markets like sustainable farming, habitat restoration, and eco-tourism that complement –not necessarily replace –the traditional, extraction-based natural resource economy

It is perhaps easiest to illustrate with some examples from the students’ trip:

  • Upper Dry Creek Ranch is a vertically integrated, 100% grassfed beef and lamb ranch. The Cosner family has worked for decades to create a system of ranching that centers on the health of their animals and their land.
  • The Plantworks is a native plant nursery focused on habitat restoration. Sandy Roth and Dick Kenton collect seeds directly from habitat restoration sites, nurture these native plants through their initial stages of growth, then work to restore ecosystems using the plants.
  • Stein Distillery is a micro-distillery sourcing local grain from the family farm. Owner Dan Stein transformed a hobby into an award-winning business when he opened to the public in 2009. Spent grains from the distilling process are returned to the farm as fertilizer for the crop that will feed the next batch of handcrafted whiskey, bourbon, vodka, rum, and cordials.
  • Wilson Ranches Retreat is a bed and breakfast on a working, traditionally managed ranch. The Wilson family is committed to educating visitors about ranching practices that preserve and care for the delicate rangeland of North-central Oregon.

Natural resources and agriculture have always been the backbone of rural life, but the American economy is changing rapidly, shifting away from natural resources towards technology and services. This shift has left many rural communities behind. Professor Hibbard and Dr. Lurie believe that growth of the new natural resource economy may pave the way for rural revitalization in areas hard-hit by economic transition.

As the student team continues to investigate the NNRE in Eastern Oregon, stay tuned for ideas about how policymakers and economic developers can support this emerging sector.

Reflecting on the CSC’s Impact

As we enter a new academic year, it’s worth pausing to take stock of our accomplishments this past year. At the base level, we placed 25 students in Oregon communities through the RARE program, engaged 20 students in five projects for the 2015 CPW course, had 10 summer interns, and worked on dozens of projects throughout the state.  That’s what we did, but does it make a difference?

The short answer is yes.  The CSC continues to have positive impact on our clients. As part of our year annual activities, we conduct an online survey of our clients. This year we received 34 responses from about 50 client communities. Following is a brief summary of the findings, with an emphasis on our economic impacts:

  • Eighty percent of our clients had previously worked with the Community Service Center
  • Clients reported that our efforts had led to creation or retention of 94 jobs. Many clients reported that they were unable to estimate job creation and retention; thus the actual impact may be higher.
  • Four of the clients indicated that the project resulted in investment of private capital. The total for three of the projects was $164,000; one client reported that the project might result in a capital investment of $15 million. Several other clients reported they were unable to estimate private investment but that private investment had occurred.
  • 10 clients reported that the project resulted in additional public sector investment. Total public investment as a result of our projects was reported at $1,331,000.
  • Eight of the 14 reporting clients indicated that the project had resulted in action on their or others part.
  • 13 of 14 reporting clients (93% of those responding to this question) reported that the project achieved the intended results.
  • 93% of clients reported their interaction with CSC faculty and staff “excellent” or “good”; 100% of clients reported their interaction with students “excellent” or “good.”
  • 100% of clients reported the products developed for the project were useful
  • 100% of clients indicated they were Satisfied (29%) or Very Satisfied (71%) with the project
  • 100% of clients indicated they would partner with the CSC for future projects


Finally, a few comments from our clients:

  • “RARE participants were extraordinarily talented and hard working personnel. They helped to develop a number of programs here in Sandy, and I would hire either one of them if I had the chance.”
  • “We would not have ever made the goal of a being a net exporter of renewable energy. We also would not have been able to raise funding for the Innovation & Learning Center that now offers higher educational opportunities in rural Lakeview.”
  • “The students were diligent, inquisitive, and enthusiastic. Staff were passionate about the subject and very responsive to changes and requests, and produced a very professional product. Faculty guidance was present and strategic. It was a fun and rewarding experience overall.”
  • “Very good — responsiveness, collaboration, goal/objective definition, communication, professionalism, enthusiasm, and friendliness.”
  • “The position was so successful that the City allocated $20,000 to support a half time position for the Tourism Committee.”
  • “The results of this project created a significant resource that benefited multiple agencies and staff. I greatly appreciated the team’s willingness to allow the project to be refined as it developed which ultimately resulted in a better product.”

We’re looking forward to fall term and having another productive year service the state of Oregon and University of Oregon students!

Best regards,

Bob Parker and Megan Smith