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Raised in Clatskanie, Sierra Trass now leads shop local initiative for county

COURTESY PHOTO - Sierra Trass is the new director of Keep It Local Columbia County.Sierra Trass recently took over as the new director of Keep It Local Columbia County, replacing Natasha Parvey.

Keep It Local Columbia County is a nonprofit aimed at promoting local businesses, "really just trying to help people think local before they go think of Amazon," said Trass, who was named director in July.

Trass' first few months have been focused on getting to know people in the community, building relationships and finding out what needs Keep It Local can fulfill.

"It's a lot of collecting feedback: hearing what people like about the program, what they dislike about the program, what could be improved," Trass said. "I've been trying to collect all that feedback while simultaneously building relationships, so that I can soon — hopefully — create a whole new strategic plan of how we want to implement the program going forward and what our focuses are."

Trass grew up in Clatskanie and interned for the Columbia Economic Team, with which Keep It Local partners, earlier this year.

Trass said she was connected with the Columbia Economic Team by a CET board member and member of the Clatskanie branch of the PEO Sisterhood, which awarded Trass with a scholarship while she was studying management at Oregon State University.

The Economic Team was in the midst of a busy grant process when Trass started, working to distribute COVID-relief grants to local businesses.

Parvey, who also previously worked as executive director of the South Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, served as director of Keep It Local Columbia County for five years.

"I went into the beginning of my fifth year knowing it was my last year, which I shared with (the) newly appointed CET director, Paul Vogel. … I had additional projects that were going to require more of my time," explained Parvey, who remains involved with economic development efforts in Columbia County, including a planned NEXT Renewable Fuels facility at the Port Westward Industrial Park.

Now at the helm of Keep It Local, Trass is gathering feedback from community members and local business owners — including through a survey for business owners open through Wednesday — and working to promote shopping locally and getting involved with the local community as Columbia County heads toward the holiday season.

Trass frequently spotlights local businesses on the Keep It Local Columbia County Facebook page and shares videos, photos and interviews from events like local job fairs.

"That's kind of what it looks like on the consumer end. On the business end, I develop relationships with owners and offer them resources," Trass said.

In the future, Trass expects to be more involved with the small business resource center that CET is currently developing, which will house resources like one-on-one business coaching and workshops.

Keep It Local is also hosting a "hot potato" campaign on social media, encouraging small businesses to tag each other and be entered into a drawing for $1,500, funded by Wauna Credit Union and InRoads Credit Union.

As Trass gathers information to create a new strategic plan, she's also preparing for a holiday campaign and seeking grant funding to redo Keep It Local's website.

The work Keep It Local aims to do "feeds into the greater research that shows that when you get people to invest in their local economy, it keeps dollars in and it helps the community," Trass said.

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