OROVILLE – Alyce Brown, executive director of the North Central Washington Economic Development District, spoke with the Oroville City Council at their Jan. 17 meeting.
In introducing Brown, Mayor Ed Naillon said, “Her organization partners with local organizations, private entities and government entities within their economic jurisdictions. It helps set priorities for our regions. They were instrumental on our Reman and Reload roadway development project that we did over the last few years.”
Brown said the NCWEDD serves Okanogan, Chelan, Douglas and Ferry counties, as well as the Colville Confederated Tribes.
“You guys have a phenomenal employee with Miss JoAnn (City Clerk/Treasurer Denney) because we went through some barriers and roadblocks and some headaches… but we did finish an EDA grant recently. So, congratulations city, you finally got your money,” said Brown, adding that wasn’t why she was at the council meeting that night.
“Why I am here tonight… so back in 2021 the city received a USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) grant to do a five-year Downtown Strategic Plan for revitalization in partnership with your Chamber of Commerce. Miss Karen actually kind of led that for us getting support letters from different businesses,” said Brown, referring to past Oroville Chamber of Commerce president Karen Frisbie.
She continued, “Mike (Councilman Marthaler) here was a part of that committee giving us some insights and feedback as far as what we wanted your downtown to look like and what revitalization would look like. Now we are at a point where it is time for you guys to decide how you want to move forward.”
Brown said the five-year plan has basic steps in year one that do not cost the city any money.
“Suggestions are beautification, rolling into year one where it slowly starts funding different projects up to year five. I know we met with the committee and they really wanted to form a separate group to kind of steer this.
“That’s why I’m here tonight… to present the final product to the city and to say we’re still here. We want to support you guys however you want to move forward. I know there has been some kind of realignments going on within organizations. More or less we wanted to say we are still here and we want to help you with this project.”
Brown said the USDA has funding open right now and that if the city was interested in moving forward the NCWEDD can help with applying for funding and bring back the firm Downtown Strategies, which partnered with the EDD on planning.
“Again, Mike can give you insight, Karen can give you insight, we can bring them back in and do more one-on-one technical assistance to help you guys move forward with revitalization,” Brown said. “If you are interested in retail recruitment that’s something else we can do with you guys. So just a wide opportunity here for you guys to come together as a community and figure out what your next steps are,” she said, asking if there were any questions.
“As a farmer I’m wondering how are Department of Ag dollars being spent on downtown revitalization?” asked Councilman Richard Warner.
Brown said that it was called a Rural Business Development (RBD) grant.
“The idea behind it is to support the small business, the farms… anything that’s going to drive economic vitality for the community,” said Brown. “So part of that was with the chamber, they went out to different businesses along the downtown corridor and got letters of support. We asked business owners ‘If you were to have a more thriving downtown would you be able to hire additional employees, would you be able to stay open later?’ So there was definitely a process involved.”
Mayor Naillon asked if grants were available from more than just USDA?
Brown said there was.
“There is some commentary in there about the different grants you can go after. There was some discussion of EV (electric vehicle) chargers. There was some stuff you’d like to do with your park. One thing I’d like to encourage your group to think about is EV chargers at your park. Because once you put in those EV chargers you’re also going to get funding for sidewalks and crosswalks and of course bring in vacationers,” said Brown.
Mayor Naillon asked if the document was substantially different from the draft they saw in April.
“The biggest thing you’re going to find in there is when we met with the committee we were making sure there is more cultural sensitivity. So there’s more information around the Tribe and trying to focus on artwork and supporting that heritage,” said Brown.
“I notice the population figures appear to include the surrounding area. So I don’t know what you consider your economic boundaries when planning to move forward,” said Naillon.
“Downtown Strategies keyed in on that. You’ll always have to the border and down to Tonasket. I believe we went as far as Republic for your project,” she said.
The mayor asked if any businesses within those boundaries will be eligible for funding?
“This plan is very much just for the City of Oroville, so your area’s small businesses will benefit from this. But to do that gap analysis obviously we needed to look at what we can capture within a certain distance,” she replied.
She went on to say regarding retail recruitment, the EDD had been working with Dollar General on a new location and there were also some talks with Costco and that Burger King was looking to expand.
“There are some opportunities there you can possibly capture,” she said, adding that there were discussions earlier about taking one of the downtown buildings in Oroville and making it a business incubator.
“There’s lots of opportunities for money out there,” said Brown.
For the full story on the city council meeting see the next issue of the Gazette-Tribune.