While the conservative Lane County commissioners are still prone to supporting controversial timber and mining efforts, work continues to bring other businesses to the area. As part of its economic development efforts, the county announced it has hired Springfield legislator John Lively as Oregon economic development specialist. The commissioners also voted July 23 to give $200,000 in video lottery dollars to local business efforts and $100,000 to Canadian company Apel. Waiting in the wings are projects such as “Project Squeeze,” which is slated for $230,000 in funds.
Lively’s hire comes at a cost of $25 per hour and he is approved for a maximum of 520 hours on an as-needed basis, according to county spokesperson Anne Marie Levis. She says Lively will be working with County Economic Development Division Manager Glenda Poling on “some technical aspects and needs of companies that are looking to locate in Lane County.” Levis says that the “position has been in the budget for quite a while to be able to bring in technical expertise when needed.”
Lane Metro Partnership also works on area economic development efforts. Jack Roberts, Lane Metro’s executive director, made public in April an effort to oust him and replace his leadership at Lane Metro with Poling. At the time, Roberts wrote in a letter that County Administrator Liane Richardson told him at a meeting that the commissioners would refuse to approve the county’s usual yearly allocation of $100,000 to Lane Metro “unless there is a change in leadership.”
The R-G reported at the time that there was “friction and rivalry between Lane County’s three-person Economic and Community Development unit, headed by Poling, and Lane Metro.”
Roberts says Lane Metro is currently working on Project Squeeze. Squeeze is a state given code name for an unnamed company looking to bring 230 jobs to Oregon. The commission majority signed off on a letter of intent that says the county would offer $1,000 for each full-time, permanent job created by Project Squeeze. Forest Grove apparently lost the company over a one-time payment of $925,000 in transportation development taxes, The Oregonian reported in May. A Roseburg City Council Agenda from 2011 referred to a Project Squeeze as an “apple processing company looking for facility to produce applesauce and also containers for products.”
Commissioner Pete Sorenson was the lone vote against giving $100,000 to aluminum extrusion company Apel, another project of Lane Metro, because he says while it is a good project the company did not ask for the money and doesn’t seem to need it.
The county documents related to the July 23 commission vote say that if Project Squeeze does not come to Lane County, the funds will “used for other economic development purposes.” The County Commission voted to give Sweet Creek Foods $60,000 for expansion and equipment, $100,000 to Lane Workforce Partnership Back to Work Lane County and $40,000 to NEDCO Sprout! Community Food Hub. Lively is a volunteer board member of Lane Workforce, which Levis says is not a conflict of interest.
Roberts says of Lively’s hire that “John has an excellent background in economic development as the former director of the Lane Metro Partnership (then the Eugene/Springfield Metropolitan Partnership) when we recruited Symantec, Sony and Hyundai to our area.”
Hyundai, later Hynix, left the area in 2008, laying off about 1,000 employees and 300 contract workers, and Sony closed its Springfield plant in 2003. Symantec employs more than 1,000 people in Springfield.