Mid Columbia Economic Development District strives to promote the creation of family-wage jobs, the diversification of the economic base, and the growth, development and retention of business and industry in Hood River, Wasco, Sherman, Klickitat and Skamania Counties
MCEDD is organized as a government non-profit in Oregon as an ORS-190 and in Washington through RCW 39.34.010.
May 28, 2020 – AmeriCorps RARE (Resource Assistance for Rural Environments) Program member Tatiana Eckhart recently wrote about her experience with MCEDD during the COVID-19 Pandemic and the inspiration she has drawn from seeing her rural community come together. The mission of the program is to increase the capacity of rural communities to improve their economic, social, and environmental conditions, through the assistance of trained graduate-level members who live and work in communities. We are pleased to share her perspective here, and encourage you to learn more about RARE and read more stories here.
For many of us, COVID-19 has effectively turned life as we knew it upside down, shattering any sense of normalcy we previously had and utterly and completely changing the ways in which we operate in the world and interact with each other on a daily basis. For many of us, the story of COVID-19 has been one of hardship, loss, sacrifice, and quite frankly devastation, both in a financial and social sense, as millions of people lose their jobs and are unable to rely on traditional forms of comfort that were previously taken for granted, like the simple act of being able to get a hug. There is no doubt that the current situation is dire. But I think the story of COVID-19 is also one of resilience, of communities coming together to develop solutions to support its citizens and get businesses back up and running. From my own standpoint, I have been lucky enough to be part of the response effort in the Mid-Columbia region of Oregon, and I have honestly been blown away by the level of coordination and collaboration that has taken place across industry sectors in the region to develop a holistic approach to combating the virus and getting our communities back on their feet.
I am currently serving my second term with Mid-Columbia Economic Development District (MCEDD), an economic developmentally-focused organization that has played an instrumental role in the Columbia Gorge’s regional response. I feel extremely grateful to have been able to see firsthand how well things can go when people work together to find common solutions for the benefit of all members of the community. In March, MCEDD developed the Economic Resiliency Team, a group of more than 50 local stakeholders from Oregon and Washington convened by MCEDD and Oregon’s Regional Solutions program to help the Gorge respond and recover economically from the impacts of COVID-19. This group, which meets weekly, includes leaders and representatives from a variety of different sectors including public health, child care, economic development, Ports, business centers, Tribal representatives, and more. Each week this group gets together (virtually, of course) to discuss updates around state guidelines for reopening Oregon and highlight the immediate and longer term needs for industries in the region such as agriculture, tourism, healthcare, child care, etc. In this way we are able to directly learn about economic impacts and priority needs in the region from those on the ground facing these issues every day and provide immediate feedback to the state for support.
The collective effort by the group to develop a coordinated response in reopening has, in my opinion, been one of the primary reasons I feel confident that our region will be able to balance the need to reopen communities while protecting public health and not overwhelming our rural healthcare systems. In fact I think we’re in a much better position to begin reopening our communities than other areas in the state, and I attribute that belief to the specific approach the Mid-Columbia region has taken in joining forces across sectors to ensure that reopening our communities does not come at the cost of the safety and well-being for people living in the region. Although I am a tiny fish here in the Columbia, I am immensely proud to be a part of these efforts and be able to actively learn from experts about what organizations are doing to support their communities. Although we can’t forget that this is a time of peril for many, many people, in terms of my RARE experience I feel like I’ve learned as much in the past two months about organizational coordination and rural resilience as I did during my entire first year serving in RARE. I mean, talk about real-world experience! The level of resilience and determination to reopen things the right way that I have witnessed during these meetings has given me a renewed sense of confidence that the path of community development is the path for me. At the end of the day, the thoughtfully coordinated and open approach in creating partnerships across industry sectors has instilled in me new feelings of hope, inspiration, and the unwavering belief that if we put our differences aside and come to the table to work together, we absolutely have the power to affect change in our communities for the betterment of the collective whole.
May 13, 2020 – 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. ?