Eastern Oregonians Convene to Further Region’s Economic Viality

Local and Vocal!
Northeast Oregon is well known for its pristine beauty, recreational opportunities, and charming historic towns. We are also a well-connected networking rural region, though we often live many, many miles apart. Pitching in with a neighborly barn-raising attitude is alive and well in this part of rural Oregon; we often convene, collaborate, and reunite in our collective economic vitality effort, sharing stories and our successful future together.
Almost 100 participants were in for a treat at the Northeast Economic Vitality Summit held in La Grande December 10, 2014, at the Blue Mountain Conference Center. Attendees traveled from all regions of eastern Oregon, including Wallowa, Union, Baker, Umatilla, Grant, and Malheur counties, to hear presentations and to reconnect through networking and small group discussions. The focus of the Summit was: Rethinking Local: Live, Invest, and Grow!”
Keynote speakers Carol Peppe Hewitt and Katrina Scotto de Carlo proffered timely and exciting subjects. Peppe-Hewett’s topic – Local Matters: Building Community Capital Through Local Investments – brought the Slow Money Movement into focus. Peppe Hewett, a pioneer in the community finance movement, tells compelling stories of ordinary people connecting to local resources to develop new local financial products and services. Community finance is investment in small local enterprises and businesses, connecting local investors to their local economies, and building a local nurturing capital industry.
Scotto de Carlo is co-founder of both Supportland and Portland Made, innovative buy-local programs that have achieved national acclaim. Her presentation “Supportland: Building a Climate where Small Business Owners Can Share, Reward and Keep Local Customers” focused on community resiliency and recognizing the strength and interdependence that exists in local places.
During the summit we also heard from a panel of local experts on making NE Oregon more economically stable by leveraging local assets and exploring opportunities. Tom Hutchison, of Gold Rush Malt House, described the value-chain approach to creating wealth locally and left us with this quote: “Nothing produced in NE Oregon should leave the region before it’s achieved the highest value possible. Lisa Dawson gave us information about the NE Oregon Community Capital Collaborative, assisting business owners in finding local investors. Ginger Savage, Executive Director of the Crossroads Art Center, Annie Eskelin, Executive Director of the Art Center at the Old Library, and Mika Morton, Executive Director of Arts East completed the panel with their discussion of the economic importance of art and the culture of art in NE Oregon.
The summit was presented by Ford Institute for Community Building, and Rural Development Initiatives (RDI). Partners for the Summit were Northeast Oregon Community Capital Collaborate, La Grande Urban Renewal Agency, Baker Chamber of Commerce, Northeast Oregon Economic Development District and the North Fork John Day Watershed Council.
What a productive day we had, generating many new ideas, reconnecting with old friends, making new friends, and feeling energized and charged as we move forward to making NE Oregon as vital as we can. The challenges of our rural life are certainly sweetened by our collective willingness to collaborate and our long history of working together to get things done.

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