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SOREDI seeks help in shaping economic growth plan

The Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development agency is asking for residents to comment on the pros and cons of life in Southern Oregon so it can help map out future economic development for a two-county region.

A simple six-question survey will give residents a chance to say what works — and what doesn’t — about life in Jackson and Josephine counties from local business offerings to infrastructure. The survey isn’t multiple choice, so participants in their own words will answer questions such as, “What are three strengths and three weaknesses of the region?”

SOREDI Executive Director Colleen Padilla said the survey, available online through Friday, Aug. 23, is just one component in a regional, two-county process that has included community and business leaders involved a discussion on the direction of regional economic growth.

Updating a federally required five-year Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), the survey will help guide discussions for projects that could bring new business and jobs to the area, among other improvements.

SOREDI, a nonprofit established in 1987 to focus on long-term prosperity of Jackson and Josephine counties, serves 13 incorporated cities. Padilla said her agency in April hired Austin-based TIP Strategies, Inc. to create a comprehensive plan for economic development strategies and initiatives in the region, something the area has needed for the past two decades.

Over 30 private and public sector partners invested in the initial work, which includes 3 phases — Discovery, Opportunity, and Implementation. The final result, guiding the agency’s efforts from 2020-25 will be completed by October and unveiled in mid-November and in January at SOREDI’s annual Southern Oregon Business Conference.

Padilla said community and business leaders agree that the region needs to become “more cohesive” and assure that the work of multiple agencies, chambers of commerce, industries and other entities is rooted in the same overall game plan for the region.

Southern Oregon’s growth demands a sustainable regional strategy that is vibrant, focused on balanced growth, and compatible with all jurisdictions in the region, Padilla said. Citizen input is a vital component, she said.

“The citizen survey allows citizens to actually have input into the greater regional strategy that covers both Jackson and Jospehine counties. There are already 16 jurisdictions involved, but we don’t want to miss out on an opportunity for valuable ... input as part of the process,” Padilla said.

Padilla said projects that could guide and shape the region’s future economic development could be pinpointed as a result of the survey and eventual strategic plan.

The survey is only available online and includes six questions, including some basic identifying information such as age bracket and zip codes in which participants live and work.

Economic-specific questions ask participants to list, in their own words, three strengths and three weaknesses of Southern Oregon, the area’s greatest success and greatest constraint in recent years, and a ranking, on a scale of 1 to 5, of the business climate in the region.

Added Padilla, “We don’t want embark on a new strategy that isn’t meaningful to our community as a whole. From Butte Falls to Cave Junction to Medford, all of them, we want our strategy to be relevant and offer the best return on investment and to both create and retain jobs throughout the region, which in turn becomes the basis for a vital robust economy.”

To participate in the survey, go online to https://soredi.org/regional-strategy/

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.