Southwest Oregon Is Open for Business!

March, 2015
Despite the challenges confronting them, many southwest Oregon entrepreneurs plan to expand their businesses in the next couple of years. This finding was part of a recent study completed by RDI and Business Oregon, focused on the challenges and opportunities facing the entrepreneurs of southwest Oregon. Business Oregon, the state’s economic development agency, asked RDI to assist with engaging 100 entrepreneurs in Coos, Curry, and Douglas Counties because of RDI’s strong ties to the region. The study’s findings are quite positive and suggest that many of the entrepreneurs and businesses of the region will expand their operations in the next two years. Along with measuring optimism for the future, the study also addressed the benefits and challenges of operating a business in the region, interest in finance options, and ways Business Oregon and local business service providers, like the Small Business Development Centers (SBDC), could better tailor their services to meet the needs of business owners. A local advisory committee will use the findings to support sound business-support strategies for the region.
 
Members of RDI’s Rural Economic Vitality Services team, Mary Bosch and David Wade, conducted the study. Through focus groups, interviews, and an online survey, they gathered firsthand accounts of the opportunities and challenges facing entrepreneurs. While many of the study’s participants reported a number of challenges, they also reported a number of strong reasons to build a business in southwest Oregon. Participants reported benefits such as great communities to live in, a perfect and mild climate for growing plants and raising animals, pristine fisheries, and plenty of mountain and coastal recreation, as well as a strong tourism market for six months of the year. 
 
This same tourism market also created one of the region’s largest challenges: handling the large drop in demand for dining and hotel accommodations and shopping in the winter months. Other challenges include a small economy, availability of employees, and property/space constraints. To assist Business Oregon and local providers with their ongoing efforts to improve services, participants were asked to identify the areas in which they could most use assistance. Assistance with sales and marketing was the number one request, followed by finance packaging and capital access, as well as employee hiring and training. It is encouraging to know that despite the challenges they face, many are optimistic. Of the 80 entrepreneurs that reported in their future plans, 32, or 41%, stated plans to expand their business in the next two years.
 
RDI could not have completed the study without the help of our partners who played a key role in helping us promote and conduct the focus groups. We would also like to thank the entrepreneurs who generously contributed their valuable time and ideas to the study. We can’t thank you enough for contributing time from your busy schedules to help your communities thrive. To learn more about how RDI can help your rural community, contact Mary Bosch, Director of Rural Economic Vitality, email: mbosch@rdiinc.org.
 

 
 

Return to the March issue.