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NEOEDD Receives Cycle Oregon Fund Grant for Study of Rail with Trail

Northeast Oregon Economic Development District (NEOEDD) is pleased to have received a $7,229 grant from the Cycle Oregon Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) to support the Phase 1 assessment of a Wallowa Union Rail with Trail project. Cycle Oregon funds will allow NEOEDD to assist the Wallowa Union Railroad Authority (WURA), Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Eastern Oregon University and the Wallowa Union Heritage Trail Coalition in examining the feasibility of developing a trail alongside the 62.5-mile rail line between Elgin and Joseph.

“The rail corridor is an amazing asset for our region, and the counties have worked hard to acquire it,” says NEOEDD Economic Development Specialist Sara Miller. “NEOEDD has provided different types of assistance to WURA over the years—we’re very thankful that Cycle Oregon funds at OCF will allow us to help with assessing the feasibility of a future Rail with Trail.”

Phase 1 entails partner organizations and stakeholders collaborating on a feasibility study which will investigate why people would visit the corridor, what they would do while there, and what might bring them back to the region. Oregon Parks and Recreation, the lead technical assistance partner, has plans for public listening sessions, community outreach, creation of a website, and other research to help WURA make an informed decision about whether or not to move forward with Phase 2, planning for trail development.

Phase 1 will examine the feasibility of a recreation trail sharing the railroad bed with WURA’s tracks, which will remain in service for use by excursion and other trains. A Rail with Trail would create jobs in construction and maintenance, and there would be economic benefits for tourism-related businesses like bike rental, shuttle service, food service, lodging, and retail. The increased tourism would also affect adjacent landowners, and the trail would be expensive to build and maintain. The Phase 1 feasibility study will ensure that the costs and benefits of a Rail with Trail project are fully understood before WURA is asked to make a decision about future development.

NEOEDD Receives Grant to Develop Community Capital in NE Oregon

NEOEDD is pleased to announce that The Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) has awarded it $15,000 to support development of a “local financing ecosystem” to meet the needs of businesses and citizens in Baker, Union and Wallowa counties. NEOEDD was also invited to apply for additional OCF funds in 2014. The grant comes from two OCF funds, the Miller Charitable Fund and the Ward Family Fund.

“These funds will help us bring investing education and tools to the region in the coming year,” says NEOEDD Executive Director Lisa Dawson. “Economic and community-development partners have laid some important groundwork, but there’s a lot more to do to connect investors and entrepreneurs.”

“Community Capital” gives local citizens the option to divert money from the global stock market (which does not benefit the region) into NE Oregon businesses. NEOEDD is part of the NE Oregon Community Capital Collaborative, a group of fouteen organizations working in conjunction with Springboard Innovation and its online platform, ChangeXchange Northwest, to launch a community capital program in NE Oregon. The Community Capital project is not an NEOEDD-sponsored investment fund, but a program of training and technical assistance to enable individuals to enter into legal investment arrangements with entrepreneurs and businesses of their choice.

“This program moves toward creating permanent, mutually beneficial relationships between community members who have capital and small-business owners who need capital to establish or grow their businesses,” says Dawson. “We want to see a region that is full of engaged citizen-investors and vibrant, creative and successful business enterprises.”

The Community Capital Collaborative is seeking additional partners, and volunteers for the following teams: Leadership, Marketing and Communications, Local Loyalty Point System, Local Impact Investing Opportunity Network (LIION), Education, and Event-Planning. If you are interested in getting involved, or want more information, please contact Lisa Dawson at lisadawson@neoedd.org, 541-426-3598 or 800-645-9454.