Help Your Community’s Existing Businesses Recognize Their Full Potential

January, 2016
While every rural business faces unique challenges, there are proactive and proven economic development strategies that can help existing businesses recognize their full potential. Our economic development practitioners are working hand-in-hand on Business Retention and Expansion with local leaders in two rural Oregon communities this spring: The Dalles and Veneta.
 
The need for a Business Retention and Expansion program (BR&E) in downtown The Dalles was first discussed after the unexpected closure of several longtime downtown businesses, including a music store. Now, only a few months later, another music store is opening in the same location as the one that closed. This started a dialogue regarding the need for a system or program to build stronger, effective relationships with business and property owners to be proactive about business development and retention in this historic community of over 14,000 located on the Columbia River.
 
“We hope that the BR&E program will allow us to develop productive relationships with downtown business and property owners. It will allow us to identify and address any immediate red flags in our downtown as well as prioritize opportunities and deliver meaningful action. Finally, we hope to create stronger partnerships between local agencies to bring together all of our strengths and skill sets in revitalizing our downtown,” expressed Matthew B. Klebes, Executive Director of The Dalles Main Street Organization.
 
The leadership team that is developing and designing the program is comprised of leaders from The Dalles Main Street, the Small Business Development Center, Mid-Columbia Economic Development District, Port of The Dalles, RDI, local business owners, downtown property owners, and a representative from the City of The Dalles. The team has enjoyed the opportunity to discuss shared challenges and better ways to address them, with information, partnerships, and relationships formed through the BR&E program.
 
Veneta, a small city of 4,690 residents located just ten miles west of Eugene, is also partnering with RDI to pursue a Business Retention and Expansion program. Currently, residents drive into Eugene-Springfield for work, goods, and services, which is not ideal for residents nor existing businesses. Veneta would like a stronger economic base to provide quality jobs, goods, and services in order to truly be a full-service community, and they want to see their local businesses flourish. Veneta is working toward a path of long-term economic vitality, quality of life for residents, and jobs for locals while retaining their rural charm and identity. “We feel that a BR&E program with a focus on supporting our existing local businesses will help us achieve this in an appropriate way,” voiced Claudia Denton, City of Veneta Economic Development Specialist.
 
The Veneta Economic Development Committee, City of Veneta staff, Fern Ridge Chamber of Commerce, and RDI’s Michael Held are working together on this project. “We want to get a better understanding of how our businesses are doing, what their needs and wishes are, and what we can do to help. We want to build lasting relationships between the business community and the City of Veneta government. We also have many emerging and home-based businesses, and we are hoping to bring those up to the next level,” articulated Denton.
 
Are you interested in implementing a long-term economic development strategy in your community? The key to business vitality is having a strong, locally-owned business base that has the capacity to endure and grow in today’s rapidly changing economy. For more information about bringing Business Retention and Expansion to your community, contact RDI’s Rural Economic Vitality Program Manager, Michael Held, phone: 541.684.9077 ext. 7033 or email: mheld@rdiinc.org.
 
Thank you to Bank of the West for their generous support of RDI’s Business Retention and Expansion program.