Kate Porsche, who worked in economic development and urban renewal in Albany from 2006 through 2016, has taken over as the economic developer officer for Corvallis and Benton County.
Porsche replaces Amy Jauron, who left in the fall of last year. The economic development office used consultants and contractors to fill in the gaps before Porsche was hired.
Most recently Porsche worked as community development director for the city of Redmond.
The difference between Central Oregon and the mid-valley?
“Wetlands,” she said. “They are always a challenge here. On the east side of the Cascades it’s rocks in the ground.”
Porsche said she moved back over Santiam Pass because of “the opportunity to work in Corvallis. I know (City Manager) Mark Shepard well and worked with him for a decade. I think the world of him. I also had family reasons for coming back to the valley.”
Shepard worked in a variety of administrative posts in Albany before taking over as city manager in Corvallis in 2015.
Porsche’s main job is to work on business expansion and retention in both Corvallis and Benton County.
“I want to make it easier for people to do business in Corvallis,” she said. “It’s a balance. You have to support the goals of the City Council and commissioners and the people of Corvallis. I think you can do all of that.”
Porsche is starting with a “listening tour.” She already has held one-on-one meetings with councilors, Benton County commissioners, city administrators and members of the Economic Development Advisory Board. As of Tuesday she had completed 12 of the interviews.
“I want to get to know people and see what the challenges are,” she said. “The next phase will be meeting with businesses. So much of this work is being available to help to connect businesses with the resources they need.
“I’m almost an ombudsman. What can I do to help? What are the obstacles? I can bird dog and get answers for them and make the difficult process of working with government easier. And let them focus on what they do best which is running their businesses.”
Both city and county officials have talked about trying to broaden economic development efforts into a more regional entity. The county contributes $100,000 to the office’s $375,000 budget, with the city-county agreement, which began in 2012, expiring in September.
“It’s just so early,” said Porsche about the regionalization concept. “I don’t know which direction it would go. … I would be talking out of school.”
Part of the challenge, Porsche said, is public perception.
“Some people think economic development is dirty, greasy manufacturing jobs,” she said. “Part of it might be outreach to the community and letting them know we are here and doing all we can.”
Tom Nelson has served as the office’s manager since September 2012. He plans to retire within the next year and Porsche is in line to replace him, although Shepard said there are no guarantees.
“Joining the team here has great appeal for me because of how much I think of Tom and Mark,” she said. “To step in and be part of the long-term plan is humbling and nice.”
Another benefit to having Porsche in Corvallis is her experience working on urban renewal in Albany. Corvallis is beginning a study of establishing an urban renewal district in South Corvallis and might plan a plan to put to the voters next year.