What do companies want from the county? I was asked this question by a bagger at Chester's. It's a popular topic as I travel around the county. The answer is, of course, it depends on what the company's needs are.
The most important thing to remember is that the company is looking to make a profit. If they can't make money by moving into Grant County, they won't come. Some of the reasons companies move into an area are: available land, workforce training and availability, tax breaks and access.
Since the building of the John Day Industrial Park, Grant County has shovel-ready industrial land available. It is a great thing for the City of John Day to have stepped up to the plate and made this land available. I attended an Economic Summit in Ontario that dealt mainly with this issue and it is the main reason Malheur County is not growing as fast as its Idaho neighbor.
For $5,000, a company can buy an acre of land at the industrial park that has water, sewer, power, and telephone service right up to the property line. There are conditions attached to the property, such as a minimum of three jobs created.
The state, ranked as one of the top 10 states to do business in, has also stepped up to the plate with tax breaks. If a company builds a new building in an Enterprise Zone, such as Grant County, they can get up to a 10-year break on their property taxes. There are many exceptions and requirements to receive this tax break. One of the most important is that you have to have approval before you begin any construction.
The biggest impediment for development in Grant County is transportation cost. With no immediate access to rail or waterways, the only efficient way to get product in and out of Grant County is by road. With the price of fuel closer to $3 than $2 a gallon it is becoming increasingly costly.
The airport is a great economic benefit to the community, and if we are lucky enough to increase the length of the runways through the Connect Oregon Grant we will be able to bring in the next size of airplane. But its remoteness still takes Grant County out of the running for large manufacturing plants or producers of large production items. It is just not economically feasible to produce them here.
All companies have wants and needs. Grant County is working hard to build the infrastructure that provides solutions to as many of these needs as we can.
Steve Dahl is the Grant County Economic Development Coordinator. He can be reached at 575-1555.