Veneta: Outgrowing the "Bedroom Community" Tradition

Downtown Veneta Entrance Sign

Many Oregonians see Veneta as a sleepy bedroom community for Springfield and Eugene, and in many ways it is. However, City Administrator Ric Ingham is working with the Rural Development Initiatives (RDI) and local businesses to implement their Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) program. Their goal: to expand the economy within Veneta and create a more vibrant local business sector.

Mr. Ingham has been the city administrator for Veneta since February of 2004. In the nearly 13 years he has held this role, Mr. Ingham has worked to grow Veneta’s economy, engage the community in creating local business, and help build the tourism sector. He connected with the RDI organization because they have the same goal. Rural Development Initiatives works to “help communities help themselves with effective and results-oriented training and resources necessary for individuals living in rural communities to build and sustain a better future in their communities.” They are committed to helping rural people and communities build capacity through leadership development programs and strengthening economic vitality.

To aid the program, Ingham worked with the Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) AmeriCorps program. Veneta is no stranger to utilizing graduate-level RARE participants to help the community grow. This year, they are pleased to work with participant Marina Brassfield.

The goal of Veneta’s BRE program is not to attract large, outside corporations, but to grow existing and local businesses within the city. To this end, the city chose to focus on local needs by interviewing existing business owners, creating a report presented to the community in June of 2016 and worked to provide assistance in the form of microlending and micro-support services.

Veneta’s community formed three subcommittees to address barriers local businesses face. These cover workforce development, business infrastructure, and business networking. The great thing about these subcommittees is that Veneta businesses decided to get involved and are working with the City to find solutions that will help the city’s economy grow.

Mr. Ingham is very excited about the progress that has been made so far within the BRE program: “This project gives Veneta an opportunity to elevate and have a different discussion with local businesses. These businesses know we are committed to seeing them grow and bring services to them. We didn’t understand all of their needs before this project, but now we do, and we are working to address those needs and addressing the employment base within our community.”

The City of Veneta is moving forward on many fronts. These include:

●     Continuing to work toward building a better broadband network within Veneta and the Fernridge area. Currently, Veneta is conducting a broadband demand survey so they can advocate for an expanded network for all businesses and homes that need improved internet service.

●     Veneta is partnering with RDI to create a downtown market analysis and to help up-and-coming businesses identify storefront opportunities.

●     The Business Connect subcommittee is creating an April 2017 event for local business and residents to network and see what can be locally sourced within Veneta.

●     Veneta’s Chamber of Commerce is partnering with the Business Connect subcommittee to create a small business assistance center which provides workspace and other resources for local businesses.

All of this improvement will allow Veneta to attain its outreach and expansion goals. As Ric Ingham says: “Veneta is very excited to have RDI’s expertise in developing and launching the Business Retention and Expansion Program. It will set the stage for long-term economic vitality in our community, stable jobs for our region, and a good quality of life for our residents and business owners.”