Governor Kate Brown was in Harney County Wednesday, April 12, and had the chance to visit with a local rancher, students, residents, business people, the Burns Paiute Tribe, local officials, hospital personnel, and others during the day.
One of the governor’s stops was the Harney County Positive Youth Initiative meeting at the Community Center.
Brown said her goal as governor is to make Oregon a place where everyone can thrive, and that means in every single community across the state.
“Toward that end, we’re working hard to make sure we improve our high school graduation rate, and I’m pleased with the great job you are doing here, and also want to create what we call a seamless system of education — from cradle to career. And that means funding early childhood education, including Head Start.”
Brown said that other priorities include making sure every Oregonian has access to health care and, “making sure we’ve got good-paying jobs in every corner of the state and that includes this community.”
Brown said there are a some things being done to provide good-paying jobs in rural areas.
“Number one, we’re working on a package to invest in our roads and bridges, put people back to work in communities around Oregon.
“Secondly, we’re wanting to make sure we have career and technical ed, and I know you have a good program here at Burns High School, so that students can graduate with a plan for their future and have the skills to compete in what now is a global economy.
“And the third, of course, supporting more small businesses, and doing that with both capital and mentorship and technical assistance.”
Brown then fielded several questions from local students regarding equity, quality of education in small communities, including career and technical education, more electives, and funding for schools.
A little later in the day, Brown met with Community Response Team members and business leaders to talk about rural jobs as far as what’s working well, what else is needed, and how can the state be a partner in supporting rural economies?
Some topics of concern included a frontier designation for the local area, accelerating the permitting and regulatory processes, and creative ways to attract teachers and other professionals to the area.
Colby Marshall of Silvies Valley Ranch said the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) flood plain permitting issue is stifling economic growth in Burns.
“Homes can’t be renovated because people can’t afford the loan for the insurance. Downtown businesses aren’t being renovated unless they’re writing the checks themselves,” Marshall said. You’re sitting in the flood plain right here, in this building. If this building was to be renovated, somebody would have to get a loan, they’d have to purchase it, have to buy flood insurance, then they’d have to raise the building three feet to meet the qualifications to get it out of the flood plain.”
Marshall also mentioned that Silvies Valley Ranch is a hometown project, focused on providing jobs for local residents and young people who want to come back to the area after school.
Brown said she would work on criteria for a frontier designation and how to expedite the regulatory process. As for the FEMA flood plain issue, she stated that the district’s congressman could be a strong advocate for the county in that area.