Job creation, economic diversity remain top county concerns
As a new group of county leaders begin a second year at the helm, they will focus on the local economy, government efficiency and maintaining small-town values.
And of those priorities, diversification of the local job market tops the list.
"The tech sector has been a great addition to our community, but it is important to continue to diversify," said Crook County Judge Seth Crawford. "We need to make sure that we don't forget our roots in natural resources and agriculture. We also need to continue to pursue tourism and work to build our manufacturing base."
Crawford believes that keeping a growing base of employment is critical in providing a high quality of life for residents and opportunities for the people of Crook County, especially giving local youth opportunities to work and raise their families in their home town.
"Just a couple of the tools that we use to grow our local economy include Economic Development of Central Oregon (EDCO), making sure our county works at the speed of business, and pursuing businesses in specific sectors that we know are a good fit for Crook County," Crawford said. "A great example of this is identifying the need to recruit more white-collar jobs. A large number of our citizens are spending a significant amount of their work week driving all over Central Oregon to these jobs. Developing more of this type of employment will give people more time with their families and lessen the traffic on the roads."
While economic diversity and job growth is the top priority, county leaders don't want to expand opportunities and employment options at the expense of what they feel makes the community desirable to residents.
"Equally as important is keeping our small-town feel and Crook County values intact," Crawford stated. "As we experience growth due to the diversification of our economy, it is important that we grow responsibly and continue to keep our sense of community. One of the things that I hear most often from people who are new to Crook County and those that have lived here a long time is the small-town values of our community is what sets it apart."
Crawford stresses that Crook County is "a place filled with rugged individualists that tell you how they feel, but will step up for a neighbor when they are in need."
"We must continue to seek out and welcome those businesses and individuals who share our positive outlook, independent spirit and work ethic," he said.
The final priority Crawford highlights going into 2018 is ensuring county government runs as efficiently as possible.
"Over the past year, Crook County Court has been working hard to add processes and procedures to streamline as many of our functions as possible," he said. "We need to continue leveraging technology, implementing long-term budgets and refining our processes and procedures to ensure we are operating as efficient as possible. Managing the county government as effectively as possible is critical to ensuring that our citizens' tax dollars are being utilized to their full potential."