About 45 government officials and professionals attended the Regional Economic Diversification Summit hosted by the city of John Day on June 10-11.

The purpose of the REDS event was to show federal funding agencies and permitting agencies the strategic investments the city has been making in housing, broadband, riverfront recreation areas and economic development, City Manager Nick Green said.

“The event introduced elements of our comprehensive economic development strategy, which builds on the city’s 2017 Strategy for Growth by identifying opportunities for economic expansion and population growth,” Green told the Eagle.

Representatives from the Economic Development Administration, USDA Rural Development, Federal Emergency Administration, Federal Highway Administration, Forest Service and Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco were invited to the summit.

State agencies invited to attend included the departments of Land Conservation and Development, Environmental Quality, Fish and Wildlife, Transportation and Parks and Recreation.

Representatives from the offices of Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Rep. Greg Walden, the state offices of Business Oregon and Regional Solutions, and the Oregon Trail Electrical Cooperative were also invited.

“Gov. Kate Brown called in and gave the concluding remarks, thanking the participants and re-emphasizing the state’s ongoing support for the work we’re doing,” Green said.

Consultants for the city included the Walker Macy landscape architecture firm, which provided an overview of the city’s area plan concept. EcoNorthwest presented the economic context for our economic development strategy and the focus areas, Green said.

City staff took participants on a tour of the Innovation Gateway project at the former Oregon Pine mill site, the city’s commercial greenhouses and the proposed integrated park system of riverfront trails, beaches and parks. During a stop at the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site, state park manager Dennis Bradley provided a brief history of the site, Green said.

“Participants then had the opportunity to work in teams to identify funding opportunities and discuss ways the city could pursue various aspects of our strategy,” Green said.

Rhys Roth, from the Center for Sustainable Infrastructure in Olympia, Washington, facilitated a discussion of financing opportunities for the city’s proposed wastewater treatment plant and hydroponic greenhouses, the John Day River riparian corridor and outdoor recreation, as well as streets, business development and academic opportunities.

The city hopes to use the greenhouses to incubate a local food production industry by establishing a partnership with regional growers, food outlets and distributors and creating a “focused learning center,” according to the city’s presentation.

The city also hopes to “amplify the brand of John Day to attract more visitors and residents,” seek partnerships to enhance and support existing businesses and attract new entrepreneurs to John Day, according to the city’s presentation.

“It was an incredible event, to see so many different agencies and individuals coming together to find ways to help us succeed,” Green said. “To have a group of this caliber working together for one city is truly remarkable. It felt great to see their support, and I think it will generate some good opportunities for the city in the future.”

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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