The Grant County Resource Enhancement Action Team remains active in the community after a quarter-century supporting local businesses and entrepreneurs.

Incorporated in 1992 as the Upper John Day Community Development Corporation, the nonprofit organization later changed its name to GREAT.

The organization started out handling capacity-building grants that were used to fund an economic development coordinator, Treasurer King Williams said. The county took over that position in 2012.

GREAT’s 19-member board includes representatives from Grant County’s nine cities, the chamber of commerce, county court, state and federal agencies and professionals from agriculture, timber and education. Getting a quorum at meetings sometimes can be difficult, so the bylaws allow members to vote by email, Williams said.

The organization’s vision is to be a catalyst to building a strong diversified local economy, and its mission is to increase and enhance the economic stability of Grant County by attracting, retaining and expanding businesses.

The impact of one new job here is like 250 in western Oregon’s urban areas, Williams said, noting that former Grant County Economic Development Coordinator Sally Bartlett’s mission was adding “one job at a time.”

GREAT often serves as a fiscal agent for small nonprofits, such as the John Day Farmers Market and the John Day Community Garden. The group provided $1,000 to the garden in 2010 to finalize city water service. It also arranged for $4,900 in funding for the David Romprey Oregon Warmline telephone counseling service.

The organization also acted as the fiscal agent for $50,000 in funding for construction of the Prospector Trail along Canyon Creek through sale of a house donated by Wells Fargo in 2010. The goal was to provide a safe route for schoolchildren, Williams said.

GREAT also has served as a fiscal agent for startups, such as the Blue Mountains Forest Partners. In 2009, GREAT asked Congress to appropriate $7.7 million for restoration and hazard fuels reduction projects on 400,000 acres of the Malheur National Forest and another $2 million for the heritage, botanical and road access studies or surveys needed for the stewardship projects. Blue Mountains Forest Partners is now a registered nonprofit and no longer needs a fiscal agent, Williams said.

Progress is sometimes slow. In 2001, GREAT was awarded $133,500 by the Forest Service to purchase mill equipment to prove value-added use and market viability of small-diameter wood products.

The doweling machine, however, lay dormant due to a shortage of needed Forest Service timber sales, Williams said. Iron Triangle acquired the machine in 2017, and it was put to work in Seneca making fence posts as it was originally intended, he said.

GREAT also finds funding for economic studies. In 2001, it received $28,155 from the Forest Service to develop a final marketing plan aimed at increasing winter tourism in Grant County. GREAT hired Green & Christofferson Marketing of Enterprise to write the report.

In 2010, GREAT expanded its micro-loan program to assist local business startups from $2,500 to $5,000. Beneficiaries of the program over the years include a woman who started a medical transcription business and David Irwin, the owner of Environmental Measurement in Mt. Vernon, which manufactured the ThermaFan woodstove fan kit.

Richard Hanners is a reporter for the Blue Mountain Eagle. He can be contacted at rick@bmeagle.com or 541-575-0710.

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