A Regional Perspective. What is the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council?

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The Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council (COIC) is not a household name in Central Oregon. Yet, it has been serving Jefferson, Deschutes and Crook Counties since 1972 tendering business loans, education and training, economic development and transportation.

COIC may be more widely known for transportation around the region with the Cascades East Ride Center, a call center that provides information about local transportation options available and schedules rides for several kinds of local transportation including Medicaid rides and reimbursements. The Council serves as a project leader, planner and administrator for regional transportation planning and coordination initiatives. The goal is to improve and enhance the availability of transportation options to Central Oregonians. This is especially important today as the region is one of the fastest growing in the nation and the challenge to get from place to place increases.

From a small business advantage COIC can help fill in the gap in financing packages, making it possible for your bank to provide a loan that it might not otherwise be able to make.

In its On the Job Training program it assists businesses in hiring and training employees. This program has been successful when manufacturing plants or call centers close, helping people who have been laid off get training and replacement of jobs.

Until recently the economic portion of COIC’s mission has focused on employment, transportation and business loans. Most people in our region don’t realize that COIC is a Council of Governments formed in 1972 by the cities and counties of Central Oregon and also a federally-designated Economic Development District (EDD). As part of COIC’s EDD role, COIC prepares a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) every five years. COIC has just completed that plan: Central Oregon’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS).

In brief the CEDS (information provided to Cascade Business News by Scott Aycock, manager, community and economic development for COIC) has identified priorities and strategies to serve as perhaps the most comprehensive and integrative view of regional needs of any recent Central Oregon CEDS. The priority issues and strategies were developed in consultation with dozens of regional organizations and most, if not all, strategies will require various collaborations to achieve success.

According to the summary “The CEDS Vision reflects the fact that the economy is an extraordinarily complex system with thousands of variables, many of which are outside the control of COIC and our partners. The vision statement therefore focuses on how partners will work together to implement the Priority Strategies:

Central Oregon’s economic, workforce development and related partners are working collaboratively to implement a broad array of shared CEDS Regional Prosperity Strategies in order to build a better future for all Central Oregon communities and citizens.”

The Regional Priority Issues and Strategies top three issues, not surprisingly, are housing affordability and availability, emerging workforce and regional transportation: movement of people.

Other Regional Priorities are economic development-related public infrastructure, move-in ready commercial and industrial buildings, incubator and shared work spaces, regional transportation: movement of goods, broadband capacity, rural community amenities, natural resources: environmental assets and resource utilization and regional coordination and cooperation.

Many of the strategies have a myriad of impact on local jurisdictions, especially the various cities of Central Oregon who have different needs and cultures. For instance under Emerging Workforce strategies it notes: Some rural economic development stakeholders stressed that the local culture of small towns has not caught up with the regional economic transition away from high-value natural resource extraction industries that used to offer well-paying jobs upon high school graduation. Young people in this circumstance can then find themselves ill-prepared for the education and skill development required to find meaningful, family-wage employment in the current economic environment.

These are the types of regional issues that COIC believes it can help with by expanding higher education opportunities in Central Oregon. This Strategy focuses on the need to ensure capital and program funding for OSU-Cascades, supports the ongoing development of the network of COCC campuses across the region (particularly in regards to providing pathways for rural students to access curriculum) and the development of the Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship at OSU-Cascades.

Which leads us to some of the most important players in the implementation of these strategies: the various cities of Central Oregon. The City Club of Central Oregon forum on May 4 at Eagle Crest will help unveil some of the differences and the similarities between the various cities by exploring the cultures and addressing the divisions and the collaborations with each city’s city manager.

Moderator will be Rick Allen currently serving as the city manager for Sisters and previously managing both La Pine and Madras. Rick’s experience and interaction with all the various cities is both historic and noteworthy. Panelists are Keith Witcosky of Redmond, Eric King of Bend, Gus Burril of Madras, Steve Forrester of Prineville and Cory Misley of La Pine

The city managers will be asked: not everyone wants to be like Bend, so what does quality of life mean in your community and how would you define your community’s lifestyle?

This is a great opportunity to see how the region can collaborate and collectively solve some of the economic development challenges facing the rapid growth in our region.

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About Author

Pamela Hulse Andrews CBN Publisher/Founder, Bend, Oregon

Thanks to getting fired 20 years ago by a previous publication, Pamela Hulse Andrews became the founder and publisher of Cascade Publications Inc. which publishes both the print and online versions of Cascade Business News and Cascade Arts & Entertainment. Pamela’s diverse business background gives her a broad perspective on the arts and business community. She has championed the growth of the arts in the high desert region and played a leadership role in connecting the dots between arts and economic vitality. She writes an assortment of monthly and weekly columns on local arts, politics, business and the economy, creativity and developing entrepreneurship.

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