We are so excited to introduce our first GRO Communities: Independence, Grant County, Klamath Falls, St. Helens and Tillamook County! These inaugural communities vary in their culture, geography, goals and opportunities, but all are excited to develop the knowledge, tools, and resources to build stronger cities and economies by becoming champions for entrepreneurship.

Scroll down to learn more about the organizations leading the work in these three communities, and check back here for news and announcements over time!

Indy Idea Hub

Indy Idea Hub is a non-profit organization whose mission is to assist individuals and communities with business and entrepreneurship education to help people start, build, and scale lasting businesses.

Indy Idea Hub will provide business development services to create quality local jobs, build sustainable communities, create a culture of entrepreneurship in the community, and inspire the next generation through mentoring and investing.

“Building an entrepreneurial ecosystem is important for our community. If we have a strong foundation to work from, we can help our entrepreneurs maximize existing assets and ensure the local economy grows and creates jobs equitably for all members of our community.”

Kate Schwarzler, Executive Director, Indy Idea Hub
Independence Opening Night
Grant County, Oregon

Grant County knows that to maintain our rural lifestyle, we need to have a solid foundation. In the near-term we are focused on creating and enhancing the networked systems that support our community. We are investing in infrastructure to support housing development, broadband for our residents and businesses, a riverfront parks system, outdoor recreation amenities, and controlled environment agriculture. These investments will make our community resilient to what the future throws at our children and grandchildren and make Grant County a thriving community once again.

In addition to these investments in the physical landscape we are also investing in grassroots economic development that focuses on local ideas, citizen decision making, and small business development as the foundations of our future economy. Growing Rural Oregon (GRO) presents a resilient and sustainable pathway towards the future by providing a field tested model for how we can leverage our assets, build upon our opportunities using best practice models and high quality data, and grow a more sustainable and robust economy.

What do you hope to accomplish with GRO in your community?

“Grant County has so many opportunities for business expansion and trying out new services, particularly in the recreation economy. GRO offers a framework to help our entrepreneurs know what to do, when to do it, and how to do it in order to expand successfully. The ecosystem can help with deal flow, identifying new partners and services, and can also help them decide when it’s not the right time or the right product-market fit for a given idea. Our hope is that over the next five years we’ll help those businesses owners who are ready to try new things to dip their toe in the water, while providing encouragement and support to those tried and true businesses to stay engaged and help us retain a vibrant workforce.

I think it will help prepare budding entrepreneurs to successfully launch and implement new businesses in an area that tends to chew them up and spit them out. It’s hard working in a stagnant or declining market where customers have so many online options or out-of-town options. Our hope is that the GRO framework will help our local entrepreneurs find their competitive niche, succeed in new ways, and bring rural investment back to our home town after so many years of decline.”

Nick Green, Former City Manager, John Day
Klamath Falls, Oregon

Klamath IDEA is a community initiative committed to developing a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in Klamath County to strengthen existing small businesses and innovators and support the emergence of new ones.

Klamath IDEA facilitates the linking of the varying elements of the entrepreneurial ecosystem: economic development organizations, government agencies, business resource providers, and financial and human capital. Klamath IDEA then connects growth-minded entrepreneurs to the elements and one another by:

  • Hosting IDEA Talks and other entrepreneur-focused events
  • Supporting local entrepreneurial, pitch, and demo competitions
  • Co-hosting the Rural Business and Innovation Summit
  • Curating access to trusted entrepreneurial resources at klamathidea.org
  • Housing the Center for Entrepreneurship (a business training classroom)
  • Employing an Entrepreneur Concierge to assess and identify opportunities and make helpful connections
Klamath Brevada Brew House

What inspires you about this approach to rural development?

“That this was a fresh approach to economic development that didn’t depend upon someone from the outside to save us. I loved that we could do it ourselves; that we could leverage what we already had; that it honored the people who already live here and are doing it every day; and that it didn’t have to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars!”

St. Helens, Oregon

The City of St. Helens is committed to local economic development, supporting small business and encouraging entrepreneurial activity. Our City Council adopts a strategic workplan every 2 years, to serve as a road map to meet today’s needs and lay a strong foundation for the future. Economic Development is a pillar of this plan and the GRO initiative will accelerate our efforts. Through the plan process, we heard clearly from our community just how vital it is to cultivate local talent, home-grown startups, and small businesses. The City and our partners in the larger region are committed to building a strong, inclusive, diverse, and sustainable local economy. We are on the cusp of a riverfront revival and are putting systems in place to promote and encourage development of our city as a vibrant, accessible economic center and destination for residents and visitors. The model and support available as members of the GRO initiative will accelerate the growth our local economy.

St. Helens 4th of July

“Our City is committed to partnering to drive sustainable economic development. With this support from The Ford Family Foundation we can leverage local assets and grow local talent.”

“The inclusion of St. Helens within the GRO initiative is a textbook example of very fortunate convergence. We’re experiencing an increase in post-COVID start-up and spin-off businesses. We just opened a new Small Business Development Center (SBDC), our first in Columbia County. An Innovation Hub Grant was just received. There is a new Main Street organization, and the city just began construction on a master planned redevelopment of the business district and waterfront. With GRO layered into the mix, that’s an awful lot coming together in truly remarkable alignment. And as the Ford Family Foundation knows better than anyone, in a rural county when one community is strengthened and elevated, every community is strengthened and elevated.”

Paul Vogel, Executive Director, Columbia Economic Team
Tillamook County

Tillamook County and its communities support businesses from the new to the established, from large to small, from crafting to manufacturing, from forestry to fishing, from tourism to the arts, and from agriculture to technology.  We believe that encouraging entrepreneurial development is the best way to grow our economy while preserving the way of life that our residents enjoy.

Oregon Coast Visitors Association

Credit: Oregon Coast Visitors Association

“Having Tillamook County selected to participate in the GRO program is a way forward to ensure that we honor the entrepreneurial spirit that made this county what it is and “pay-it-forward” to all the future entrepreneurs who will benefit from this work.”