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Software helps SOREDI scout firms

Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development has a new high-tech tool to help evaluate the effects of business arrivals, departures, expansions and cutbacks.

The group purchased a complex $18,000 modeling program from Regional Economic Models Inc. that arrived in early June.

It can model just about any set of circumstances, says Rob Pochert, SOREDI's business development manager.

The software can be programmed to look at more than 1,100 variables and draws data specifically on Southern Oregon from a variety of sources, including the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Bureau of Labor and the U.S. Census Bureau.

It will be used to help decide how valuable a new company looking at the Rogue Valley would be to the local economy or how valuable a potential expansion of an existing company would be. That kind of analysis can help SOREDI decide how much assistance — from staff hours to tax incentives — it makes sense to offer, Pochert says.

What you are looking at are causes and effects, he says. You input the cause and you can look at the effects on different sectors (of the economy).

You can very quickly get to the point of — do you get a payback for this? Now we have a tool that will analyze that with a level of impartiality.

Say, for example, a wood products company plans to expand and build a new mill in White City. The program could be set up to figure things such as how many jobs would be created, how big a boost such a project would be to the local construction industry and what kind of taxes such a plant would generate over five or 10 years.

Those types of questions are already looked at, Pochert says. But the software will take some of the guesswork out of the equation and provide a more scientific projection. It can also be used by local government officials to gauge the effects of policy changes, such as added property taxes or new levies, on business.

It takes away some of the wild stuff you hear and has the impartiality to give you a glance of reality about what's going on, says Pochert.

Private sector donations paid $13,000 of the $18,000 used to buy the software; SOREDI kicked in the other $5,000. Pochert says the group also plans to let companies use it for a fee to offset the costs.

For businesses, the program can not only look at the costs of expansion but the size of the potential market and estimate market share.

While the model is easier to use than some others on the market, Pochert says it does take some time to get the hang of it. He's still learning how to get the most out of the software.

There's about an 8-inch manual that goes with it, he says.