Economic development officials pleaded with county commissioners today for almost eight times as much money next year to attract business and create 2,000 new jobs in Southern Oregon.

Economic development officials pleaded with county commissioners today for almost eight times as much money next year to attract business and create 2,000 new jobs in Southern Oregon.

The Southern Oregon Economic Development requested an increase from $26,000 to $200,000 for the county's share of a program that has helped attract organic food maker Amy's Kitchen and other new businesses. With additional help from Josephine County, cities and businesses, SOREDI hopes to add $325,000 to its current $267,000 annual budget.

Commissioners, who will soon be wrestling with their budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, appeared surprised at the request.

"When you talked to me a few weeks ago, you didn't drop the $200,000 on me," said Commissioner C.W. Smith. "I'd caution you that we may not be able to come up with this amount of money."

Alex Pawloski, a member of the SOREDI board of directors, said the unemployment and underemployment rates are at levels not seen in decades.

As a result, he urged commissioners to look at the SOREDI proposal as a way to create jobs in tough economic times.

— Damian Mann