WALLA WALLA — Is the creation of agricultural-based businesses the key to growing the regional economy?
That will be the subject of a new Community Council study kicking off Tuesday.
The Rev. Steve Woolley, a retired rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, is chairman of the 2009-10 study facilitated by the Community Council, an independent, nonpartisan group whose mission is to inspire community problem-solving through a participatory democracy.
According to Community Council Executive Director Julie Reese, the study will explore how the region’s economic viability can be improved through the creation of businesses that add value to agricultural resources not being utilized to their fullest economic potential.
The first session runs 5:30-7 p.m. Tuesday at St. Francis parish hall, 722 W. Alder St. A followup session takes place there at the same time Dec. 15. After a break for the holidays, weekly sessions will resume Jan. 5, Reese said.
The 26-week study process, open to participation for anyone from Burbank to Dayton to Milton-Freewater and all places in between, will assess local resources, infrastructure capacities and regulations, and funding and marketing opportunities. The group will assess what is already happening in the region and explore practices in other communities. The findings will be used to develop recommendations for local action.
A management team will assist Woolley in organizing the study. That team includes: Jon Campbell, Tim Gibson, Clive Kaiser, John Mathwich, Laura Minnick, Lanny Ptachek and Mari Sanders.
Prior to his ministerial career, Woolley worked as an educator and an executive with a major business advocacy group. His interest in the Community Council’s latest study topic stems from years of working on community development and agricultural issues as well as his family connection to agri-business.
"Entrepreneurial imagination is the spark that can ignite sustained economic growth based on the resources we already have," he said in a prepared statement.
This is the second community study facilitated by the Community Council, whose goal is to engage the entire community on topics important to regional vitality. The first was focused on enhancing educational attainment for area children.
Suggestions for future studies are accepted throughout the year. Study topics must meet several criteria. An issue must be defined and appropriate for the study process. Other criteria include importance to the community, necessity, citizen interest, effectiveness, timeliness and balance of work.
To serve on the study committee or submit ideas for future study topics, contact Julie Reese at 540-6720 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact information can also be mailed to: Community Council, P.O. Box 2936, Walla Walla, WA 99362.