Roger Lee

The Bulletin editorial of Aug. 13 raises some good points in response to a recent article the newspaper ran regarding the launch of new, local economic development programs in La Pine and Sisters.

1) Will EDCO (Economic Development for Central Oregon) evaluate results? The editorial asserts that these programs need to have performance metrics to determine whether they are working and — if not meeting expectation — to cut losses. We could not agree more. While the original article focused on the program launch, thorough evaluation of program results has been built in and I’d like to share those in more detail with your readers.

There are clearly defined performance goals in place for EDCO’s local program agreements. For Sisters, the following key performance indicators for the three fiscal years encompassing 2013-15:

• Successful completion of nine completed business development projects (retention, expansion and recruitment);

• Creation of a minimum of 100 total new, traded-sector living-wage jobs;

• A minimum $30 million in new taxable capital investment in buildings, renovations and equipment (which increase the property tax base); and

• Success/completion of strategic local projects (higher education presence, strengthening the airport as transportation amenity, etc.) as measured by general consensus of community leaders, City of Sisters, and other contributors to the program.

In La Pine, these metrics are being developed by EDCO and the newly formed La Pine Economic Development group as soon as the part-time manager is hired. La Pine’s performance metrics will track closely with those for Sisters.

Your readers may be interested in knowing that EDCO tracks, on a quarterly basis, more than 60 data points and key performance indicators. Those are reviewed by our 36-member Board of Directors, most of whom are business leaders. Boil the metrics down to what residents and community leaders expect of EDCO and it reduces to a barometer of productivity of the economy: new jobs, new payroll, new capital investment, and new industry development and diversification.

Efforts today, however, don’t produce immediate results tomorrow. In the world of attracting new businesses, the time from initial inquiry to complete relocation is about three years. (It’s a little bit like choosing a mate: from the dating game to an engagement to a wedding can — and should — take some time.)

2) Are EDCO’s metrics real? The other point the editorial raises is regarding how results are counted.

Specifically, could EDCO evaluate whether a business moved in because of local economic development efforts, or would it have done so all on its own? With 32 years of experience under our belt, this is not a difficult metric. Simply stated, if EDCO’s managers did not play a meaningful role in helping a company, we do not count it in our performance measures.

The most important litmus test for a meaningful role occurs with the business owner, manager or CEO of the project. Did EDCO add value and did that value make a difference for the company? This value-add takes many forms: delivering incentives, site selection, sourcing key employees, increasing productivity, reducing waste, mentoring, finding business capital and marketing and outreach, to name a few. Those companies that expand, relocate or create a new company without meaningful help from EDCO are never included in our performance measures.

In other words, we don’t “shoot at anything that flies and claim anything that falls.” EDCO’s tracking is documented and backed up by the testimony of leaders of the businesses we’ve helped move, start or expand.

We also endeavor to never forget that it is business owners — not private organizations like EDCO, or even government — who create jobs. EDCO’s job is to be a catalyst for economic development, setting the stage for job creation and capital investment by the private sector that is the underpinning of Central Oregon’s economy.