John Day Mayor Ron Lundbom escorted three representatives from EuroMex around the city last week, including a tour of the future Innovation Gateway site where the city’s commercial greenhouse will be sited.
The John Day City Council last month approved a notice of intent to accept EuroMex’s $337,590 bid to build a 6,240-square-foot greenhouse that will produce 30 tons of produce per year, meeting the city’s demand.
Eric Rodriguez, owner and CEO of EuroMex, George Brumis, business development manager, and Alex Rescala, architect and design director, spoke to the council at their Aug. 14 meeting.
City Manager Nick Green noted the city was in good hands and that the EuroMex representatives had already pointed out improvements to the city’s initial plans, including changing the location for the greenhouse at Innovation Gateway and new ways to utilize the former Oregon Pine planer shed.
The greenhouse is expected to be in production by mid-November, and the shed, which will serve as a shelter for a farmers market, should be ready for use by next year, Green said.
A member of the Ford Family Foundation board came to John Day with a program manager earlier this year to tour the Innovation Gateway site, Green said. About a month later, they told the city they’d be willing to accept an application for funding that would assist in future farmers markets, he said.
This is the first time EuroMex has had a city as a customer, Rodriguez said, and they recognized the potential for growth in that market sector. Assisting John Day to ensure its success would reflect well on EuroMex, he said.
One of EuroMex’s business partners has offered to host John Day’s agribusiness manager, Matt Manitsas, for two weeks of hands-on training in Mexico using the same EuroMex equipment John Day is purchasing, Green told the Eagle.
As initially proposed, the greenhouse’s three 16-foot high, 26-by-80-foot bays will have clear walls so visitors can view the facility without entering and potentially contaminating the controlled environment.
Efforts to promote the city’s commercial greenhouse and other local tourist opportunities could benefit from $140,000 in grant funding that will support a comprehensive economic development strategy, Green said.
The council approved applying for a $20,000 grant from Travel Oregon, requiring a $2,000 match, and a $50,000 Business Oregon grant that together could be used as a match for a $70,000 U.S. Economic Development Administration grant.
If successful, the city’s $2,000 would be leveraged into $142,000 to support a comprehensive economic development strategy for John Day. The strategy would focus on launching a controlled-environment agriculture industry and enhancing the city’s tourist economy, Green said. In-kind contributions by the city could boost the size of the federal grant.
According to the city’s application to Business Oregon, the goal is to help John Day and surrounding communities recover from, withstand and avoid future economic shocks caused by the loss of the local timber industry by spurring investments in agritourism, ecotourism and recreation.
The comprehensive economic development strategy “supports the city’s planned $20 million investments in the John Day Innovation Gateway and other infrastructure projects along the John Day River that will result in economic expansion in new high growth industries,” the application states.
The state grants will be awarded in September, Green said. His 1 percent administrative fee, as approved by the city council May 22, would come to $1,400.
Development of the comprehensive economic development strategy would begin in November and culminate during a regional economic development summit that John Day will host next spring, Green said.
Federal agencies will attend the summit to identify federal funding opportunities to help finance the city’s programs and initiatives, Green said.
Green also informed the council on updates to the floodplain maps for the John Day and Canyon City area. A public hearing will be held in the Grant Union Junior-Senior High School gym Oct. 24 to present the revised maps.
The Army Corps of Engineers completed a flood study along 5.3 miles of the John Day River and 3.2 miles of Canyon Creek in December 2014. The city and the county then asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to update the area’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps.
The current maps, which became effective in February 1982, are based on topographic surveys conducted in 1970 and 1975 and do not accurately reflect the flood risk today, Green said. Changes in technology and the topographical or hydrological environment have occurred over the past 40 years, he said.
The city will send letters to the 320 affected property owners, who may submit a letter of map revision to FEMA if they can document the need for a revision to the flood data, Green said.
Some property owners may learn they are in the 100-year floodplain and will need to pay for insurance with their mortgage payments. But saying they have lived at the same place all their life and never seen it flood will not qualify as evidence of a low flood risk, Green said.