A Democrat and a Republican are teaming up to try to protect Eastern Oregon's economy from Idaho's Boise Valley, its fast-growing neighbor.
Treasure Valley, as it's called, is home to tech company Micron Technology, as well as food-processing, agribusiness, and manufacturing companies. It's also home to the state's capitol.
To head off this growing competition, House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, and Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, on Thursday introduced House Bill 2012, the Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Act.
The bill would designate Ontario, Vale, Nyssa, and the immediate surrounding area in southeast Oregon as the "Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Region."
It would create a new seven-member board run by locals. This board would work to find ways to promote workforce and economic growth in the area and would have the ability to award economy-boosting grants and loans.
The bill requests $10 million for the program. The money would be borrowed and repaid over time with proceeds from the Oregon lottery designated for economic development.
The legislation was born out of a trip Kotek made to Eastern Oregon last summer at Bentz's invitation, a statement from her office says.
"When I was there, I saw firsthand how businesses and communities in Eastern Oregon are struggling to compete with the fast-growing metro area across the border," Kotek said in a statement.
She touted the bill as an example of lawmakers working together to solve problems that are unique to different parts of the state.
Bentz thanked Kotek for her visit and for recognizing the challenges facing Oregon's eastern border communities.
"This bill, if passed, and if funded, would provide a significant economic boost to Malheur County," he said in a statement.
-- Anna Marum
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