The COVID-19 pandemic has caused economic hardship across the nation, though this isn’t the first economic crisis the Gorge has had to deal with in recent years. In the last five years, the Mid-Columbia region of Oregon and Washington has experienced multiple disasters, leading to a variety of economic shocks for local communities as a result of wildfires, snow and ice storms, as well as major accidents such as a train derailment. The local group tasked with leading COVID-related economic recovery and response is now drawing upon its experience and lessons learned in a previous economic crisis to help lead the region out of the current one.
The Mid-Columbia Economic Development District (MCEDD) is co-convening the local Economic Resiliency Team, along with regional staff from the office of Governor Kate Brown. The governor’s Regional Solutions Team helped stand-up the bi-state recovery team, drawing members from local, state and federal agencies to address workforce and economic development issues related to COVID-19.
The group was first tasked with leading local economic response and that work is transitioning to economic recovery as businesses plan their reopening. To do this, the team has representation from commerce, healthcare, economic development, tourism, chambers of commerce, port districts and workforce and employment agencies. Staff from federal legislators also support the work. Many of those same groups and people also helped address economic fallout from the prior disasters
MCEDD convenes regular meetings to help the region respond to the sudden economic challenges posed by the pandemic. The team helps to secure resources across multiple jurisdictions, identify sector-specific challenges and coordinate on how best to provide assistance to businesses and employees. The team’s efforts have already helped preserve jobs in several counties by connecting employers with emergency assistance programs, despite widespread business closures prompted by stay-at-home directives from the governors of Oregon and Washington.
“This unprecedented moment—and all of the social and economic challenges that come with it—demands unity and teamwork,” said Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley. “Partnerships like those within the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District have been critical to protecting our families and our neighbors, and keeping businesses afloat. I will continue to do everything I can on the federal level to support MCEDD, and will be fighting for every resource available to keep the Gorge safe and well.”
While the reopening guidance is provided by the state, local implementation plays a big part in being able to reopen, and the team is focused on ensuring that the region reopens safely and successfully. The recovery team is hosting a free and virtual Business Adaptation Training from 1 to 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 14. The online sessions will explain the Oregon reopening framework and provide sector expertise for restaurants, retail stores, child care providers, personal services businesses, outdoor recreation outfits and providers of non-critical medical care. Find a registration link at https://www.mcedd.org/covid-19-resources/, the resource clearinghouse site MCEDD has organized with a large amount of information, including local, state and federal relief programs for businesses and employees.
Mid-Columbia Economic Development District (MCEDD) was established in 1969 by Klickitat, Skamania, Hood River, Wasco, and Sherman counties to benefit from better access to economic development loans and grants, pooled technical assistance, marketing, and administrative resources, and a regional approach to economic development efforts. Over the years MCEDD’s membership has grown to include counties, cities, ports and chambers of commerce within the five county region. It is governed by a twenty-one member Board representing its members and the key economic interests in the region. MCEDD promotes the creation of family-wage jobs, the diversification of the economic base, and the growth, development and retention of business and industry. ?