Paige McClellan, 26, is the only staff member of the Wallowa County Economic Develpment Department, an office that didn't even exist until she came to Wallowa County to conduct an industrial site inventory in mid-October.
"She had to have a business card," explained Wallowa County Commissioner Ben Boswell about the impromptu creation of a new county department. Her card identifies her as its resource specialist. "She's it," said Boswell.
As an important piece of an economic intiative called Target Wallowa County, McClellan has been hired through the University of Oregon and the AmeriCorps program as a Resource Assistance to Rural Environments (RARE) intern.
Her office is being supplied by the Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce in its headquarters on the west edge of Enterprise as one of the partners involved in her project.
"Right now I'm learning about the county, and looking at different industrial site studies done in the past," she said, noting that though the past inventories are not what the county needs, they provide a needed starting point. McClellan will use those as well as new information she gathers to create a new computer data base.
The base will be used with the GIS mapping work now underway in the county planning office with a former RARE intern, Dawn Smith, and eventually be available on the Internet.
"This is really exciting. It's going to be a challenge as well," said McClellan about the project that will keep her in Wallowa County for the next year. A former Peace Corps worker, McClellan spent a year as an English teacher in Romania where she became interested in the importance of rural development. She plans to continue her education, using her experience in Wallowa County, and pursue a master's degree in economic development.
The site inventory process is a lot more complicated than it appears on the surface, McClellan said. Among goals will be to update industrial zone information, including such data as what property is no longer available for industrial development, what is located on a flood plain, what has water and other services available, and similar information.
"The main reason for doing this is to be prepared when business proposals are presented," she said. "We want to have the resources to answer questions and to help establish businesses that want to come here."
"This is a significant step for Wallowa County," said Boswell about McClellan's project and Target Wallowa County as a whole.
He said none of the past inventories done in the county "are satisfactory or usable, we discovered," partly because much of the land which is zoned industrial is not actually available for industrial use.
In addition to compiling the industrial data base, part of McClellan's job will be to recruit, train and organize a contact committee to talk to key business prospects in the future, and to develop a catalog of community assets.
When asked who exactly she works for, McClellan laughs, for good reason. U of O and AmeriCorps subsidizes her salary, Wallowa County pays $17,000 out of a Northeast Oregon Alliance grant for Target Wallowa County funding, and the county chamber provides office space and support.
"We're making this whole thing up as we go," said Boswell about the Target Wallowa County initiative, which is basically a strategic plan for industrial expansion. "If we find a model that works, we look at it to see what works," he said, noting that Wallowa County has a unique set of circumstances (location, transportation problems, and so forth) that means its plan must be unique.
Among members of the Target Wallowa County steering committee, which is McClellan's local "boss" are Boswell and commission-elect Dan DeBoie, representing Wallowa County; Vicki Rosgen, county chamber; Sara Miller and Lisa Lang, Northeast Oregon Economic Development District; Bill Oliver, Wallowa County Planning Department; Jill Miles, Oregon Economic Development Division; Dan Stark, Eastern Oregon University's Regional Services Institute; Dave Brandt, Wallowa County Board of Realtors; Bill Clemens, PacifiCorp; and Sheri Davis of Community Solutions, Oregon Governor's Office.