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Economic development engines are revving up

The Cornelius City Council is seeking applicants for a newly reactivated Economic Development Commission (EDC).

City Manager Rob Drake is spearheading the effort to develop an economic development strategic plan for Cornelius and to restart the commission, which went dormant in 2010 when the city “fell on hard times,” he said.

The Cornelius Chamber of Commerce disbanded that same year, removing the voice of business in the community.

Drake was instrumental in encouraging the Forest Grove Chamber of Commerce to expand and include Cornelius in what is now the Forest Grove/Cornelius Chamber of Commerce.

He also spurred the City of Cornelius to join the regional economic development group Greater Portland Inc. in 2013 to participate in business recruitment and promotion. Cornelius has joined Portland’s small-city consortium, and the mayor and city manager attend those meetings. The group allows Cornelius and other small towns to gain access to recruiters, and to get equal billing with cities and towns that can afford entire economic development teams.

The new Economic Development Commission will promote and support Cornelius businesses, leveraging available resources and creating an economic development plan with help from Janet Young, a consultant who has previously served as economic development manager for Gresham, Tualatin and Beaverton.

“We hope to bring a mixture of businesses,” said Drake, including Latino businesses, which he said tend to be very entrepreneurial and which cater to the Latino residents that make up more than half the city’s population.

Economic diversity is the goal, he said.

Gene Zurbrugg, a possible commission member, agrees: “Businesses thrive on each other.” Working together is the key, he said.

The Zurbrugg Construction owner would also like to see city staff cooperate more with businesses on code issues.

“It’s about ‘How can we help you?’ rather than using codes as an obstacle,” said Zurbrugg, who notes city officials are looking for ways to build momentum in the business community.

Drake affirmed that one of the commission’s goals is to make it less cumbersome to open a business in Cornelius. He sees the city and businesses as partners.

So does Howard Sullivan, executive director of the Forest Grove/Cornelius Chamber of Commerce. He has been working to recruit Cornelius businesses to the chamber, adding an average of one per month this past year. “I think there is a wait-and-see-what-you-can-do-for-me attitude,” said Sullivan, who will serve on the EDC. “It then becomes important for me to make sure I am visible at both communities.”

As part of the outreach to Cornelius businesses, the Monday, May 12, chamber luncheon will be at Prime Time Restaurant and Sports Bar near the Cornelius border. Members and non-members are all invited to come hear what the organization has done this past year, as well as plans for next year. To register for the luncheon, call 503-357-3006 or email Sullivan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. (The Forest Grove/Cornelius rebranding hasn’t quite reached the email address.)

Current city code allows for an 11-member EDC. Drake, however, will encourage the city council to expand the group to 15. “Forest Grove has an economic commission and they have a robust turnout, and have more members,” he said.

All EDC meetings are public, with agendas posted on the city website. Application forms are available online at ci.cornelius.or.us.




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