Taking Lane County to the Next Level

Photo of Sarah Means

In order to tell you where we’re going, where the future of our county’s economic development is headed, and to illuminate our work in the community, we should tell you first who we are. That’s why we’re starting with our new manager, Sarah Means.

A native Oregonian, Means was born and raised in Yoncalla (just south of Eugene). Her family has been an integral part of the community since 1849 when they first settled their family farm. It’s this history that drives Means’ passion for the area and the State of Oregon. She comes from a rich history in public service, which influenced her desired career path as a civil servant. After graduating college, she worked for a number of different communities focusing on land use planning and economic development.  While pursuing her master’s degree in community and regional planning, Sarah began serving Lane County Community and Economic Development as a Program Specialist. Since then, her knowledge and experience have grown and today she is proud to serve as Lane County’s Economic Development Manager.


“At my core, I am a public servant. I come from a family of public servants. And I truly enjoy working for the county,” said Means.


Lane is an enormous county in its own right with three very different geographical areas that are home to unique communities. The county stretches from the coast through the south Willamette Valley to the western Cascade Mountains.


Lane County encompasses the Eugene/Springfield metro area and many rural communities. For a number of years, timber was king. However, due to changes in the wood manufacturing sector, traditional timber manufacturing isn’t as viable as it was in the past. Means doesn’t count timber out of Lane County’s development. She sees value-added products such as cross-laminated timber in the future: “Wood products will never go away; that heritage is really important to our communities. We need to think about timber in new and different ways. Innovation doesn’t just exist in Silicon Valley, you can innovate anywhere.”


Means sees a high-tech future for Lane County. The forthcoming arrival of Broadcom (formerly Avago), the completion of the downtown Regional Accelerator & Innovation Network (RAIN) facility, and the Technology Association of Oregon’s (TAO) presence in the area illustrate the current energy around the high-tech sector. The Regional Accelerator & Innovation Network is currently in the Eugene, Springfield and Florence regions. Means hopes, through strategic partnerships, to further those efforts across all of Lane County.


Means knows there isn’t a quick fix for the economy. She sees diversity as essential to the county’s overall success. Providing a solid foundation for potential businesses and entrepreneurs is vital to that success.


Having been raised in a rural community, Means sees rural development as a top priority for Lane County’s Economic Development Work Plan moving forward.


When asked what she sees as the biggest challenges in accomplishing her goals, Means cites a lack of collaboration, finite resources, and a slow recovery from the recession as key issues facing the community. However, Means has a three-pronged plan of attack. She plans to 1) leverage available resources; 2) build lasting partnerships; and 3) take advantage of collaborative opportunities.


This is work Means gets excited about. Her goal is to make it easier for businesses and entrepreneurs to create and run their operations and to develop partnerships to help them reach their goals. “I’m excited for the part that we get to play in a strong, productive economy. I’m really looking forward to taking Lane County to the next level,” said Means.