The Columbia County Business Community Connection Project

Columbia County, OR, April 8, 2024: The Business Community Connection Project was announced today is a robust, multi-disciplined information-gathering initiative that will utilize direct business interviews, research, and collaboration between dozens of stakeholders to develop an informed, shared vision for future economic development in Columbia  County. Led by Columbia Economic Team (CET), the project is based on a proven model used nationally. It is also backed by a diverse coalition of local partners organized into a skilled task force. The Taskforce Team includes CET, the Columbia County SBDC, Keep it Local Columbia County, GRO Greater St. Helens, the Clatskanie, Rainier, and  South Columbia County Chambers of Commerce, St. Helens Main Street Alliance, ColPac EDD, each of the county’s cities, county commissioners, energy utilities, local credit unions, and a number of other stakeholder organizations and individuals from throughout the county. 

The project will gather national, regional, and local data, including direct interviews with business owners, to inform recommendations and strategic planning to stimulate economic growth and sustainability. A diverse range of 100 businesses across the county and business sectors will be interviewed between May 1 and June 15, 2024. Businesses of all types and sizes –  from garage-based start-ups to farmers, storefront retail, and our largest manufacturers – will be included. All interviews will be confidential, with coded results integrated into the overall economic profile. Actionable items will then be assigned to a  “Response Team,” a team dedicated to coordinating resources and solutions for identified challenges and opportunities for individual businesses and sectors. 

“This initiative is unlike any other in Columbia County, and it draws upon the strength of a proven, university-developed methodology and local talent,” said Paul Vogel, Columbia Economic Team Executive Director. “Together, we’ll gain a greater understanding of individual business needs and an overall picture of Columbia County’s economic landscape, including economic challenges and opportunities for growth and development.” added Vogel. 

“At the heart of this project, this is about community leaders getting to know, listening to, and learning from our business community,” said Sierra Trass, Lead Coordinator on the project. ”Our collaborating partners want to serve Columbia County’s business community in the best way possible and what better way than to literally ask the businesses themselves?” Trass added. “We’re all looking forward to engaging with businesses of all sizes and sectors to ensure that their voices are heard, needs are addressed wherever possible, and business owners’ input becomes the foundation for future economic development in the county,” Trass continued. 

“We are grateful for the support and collaboration of our partners in this endeavor,”  Vogel stated, “and we’re all going to come out of this work smarter, more capable, and more strategic at shaping and navigating our economic future.”

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