UNIQUE PARTNERSHIPS ENHANCE BUSINESS SERVICES IN BROOKINGS
By Gary Milliman
A new public/private coalition has formed in southern Curry County to provide enhanced services to business and promote economic growth.
Partners in this effort include the South Coast Development council (SCDC), City of Brookings and the Brookings-Harbor Chamber of Commerce.
Recognizing that small cities like Brookings cannot financially afford to support an economic development department the City entered into an agreement with SCDC in 2017 to, essentially, serve as the economic development arm of the city.
Working closely with the City Manager, SCDC receives referrals from the city when inquiries are received at City Hall from people interested in starting a new business. SCDC takes it from there, following up with prospective businesses to help them find locations, financing and professional services to help them with business planning.
Services are provided under an agreement whereby the City pays a $20,000 annual membership fee and has a seat on the SCDC Board of Directors. SCDC has developed a “business friendly” policy and procedure outline for the City staff.
The City’s golf course, Salmon Run, has been struggling financially for many years and when the contract management company proposed that the City replace the event tent at the golf course with a permanent structure to accommodate year-round events, the City turned to SCDC to prepare a mini-business plan for the project.
The analysis performed by SCDC found that costs for the new building could be recovered within 36 months and could be used for revenue-generating activities such as virtual golf simulations during inclement weather months, wedding receptions and company retreats. The City Council allocated funding for the project.
“A major benefit from our participation with SCDC is networking with other partners within the organization,” said City Manager Janell Howard. Through this networking, the City found a financing partner for the golf course event center.
“It has been a great relationship,” said SCDC Executive Director Sam Baugh. And Howard noted that having an organization like SCDC interacting with prospective businesses “in business language” is preferential to have proposals evaluated by City staff.
The City contracted separately with SCDC to manage a $95,000 grant the City received to evaluate the economic impacts of the 2017 Chetco Bar Fire.
SCDC has also reached out into the community to gather information about local business needs. One of the identified needs was to strengthen the local Chamber of Commerce whose membership was declining and was struggling with maintaining an office and staff.
As a result of this effort, SCDC employed an Economic Development Specialist (EDS) for Curry County who also serves as Office Manager of the Chamber.
“This was a win-win opportunity for the Chamber and SCDC,” said Chamber President Greg Williams. “By co-locating and co-staffing with SCDC, the services provided to the business community have been greatly enhanced.”
Williams said the Chamber was unable to afford paying for an Executive Director but is providing office space for the SCDC EDS while the EDS serves as Chamber Office Manager.
Meetings with people looking to do business in Brookings that were conducted at City Hall have now shifted to the Chamber office. “It’s more of a business atmosphere here,” said EDS and Chamber Office Manager Judy May Lopez. The Chamber recently moved into a new office space at the historic Central Building in downtown Brookings after relocating three times in as many years.
Making SCDC services available through the Chamber is a “value added” benefit of Chamber membership. Chamber/SCDC services now include assisting with business start-ups and expansions. The Chamber/ SCDC will soon be offering regular business roundtable discussion groups and other educational programs.
“We also go out and visit individual businesses to find out what they need,” Baugh said. “We have found that the number one need is a reliable workforce, so we are working to develop appropriate training programs through organizations like the South West Oregon Workforce Investment Board,” Baugh said.
Lopez said that there has been a dramatic increase in Chamber membership since SCDC became involved. “The Chamber office is becoming the first stop for people seeking help in building their business,” Lopez said, “The Chamber may not have all the resources needed to help, but through the relationship with SCDC the Chamber now has access to a vast array of resources.”
The City, SCDC and Chamber relationship is intertwined in several ways. Howard serves on the SCDC Board of Directors and is an Ex-Officio Member of the Chamber Board, while Lopez serves on the Chamber Board.
Baugh has served as SCDC Executive Director since August 2017 and the SCDC office is located in Coos Bay. The SCDC region spans from Florence along the coast to the California border.
Prior to his work with SCDC, Baugh managed a regional job training and business finance program in Utah and is a certified small business coach. With a master’s degree in Business Administration, Baugh uses his knowledge and experience to help business owners find ways to promote and build their businesses.
Lopez retired after 40 years in the financial service industry, most recently with Rogue Credit Union and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Eastern Oregon University. President of the Brookings-Harbor Rotary Club, Lopez has been a community volunteer in a variety of fields for many years.
Baugh and Lopez are supported by Coos Bay-based EDS Shaun Gibbs who has worked for SCDC for three years. He has over 10 years of experience in retail management and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from San Jose State University.