With the recent arrival of NOAA, the near completion of the Port of Newport’s new International Terminal, budding wave energy technology and ocean observation sciences, Newport City Councilors are pondering what the city could do to harness this new economic energy to move the community forward.
A recent economic report card on Newport was issued by a consulting firm hired by the city to assess its economic strengths as well as challenges. The report said that the town is ripe for a number of economic opportunities, but that it must figure out what kinds of new business and industry would fit in and pay family wage jobs.
Secondly, the report inventoried available parcels of land for new businesses and industries that might move here, or grow here. As for industrial lands the report said a number of suitable industrial sites lie immediately south of Newport proper but within Newport’s urban growth boundary, areas that Newport is expected to annex over the next twenty years.
As for service sector or retail opportunities, the report says there are three areas of Newport, north of the bridge, that could be good performers; an area just north of the bridge on both sides of Highway 101, the Highway 20 corridor from 101 to John Moore Road, and Highway 101 from 6th to 12th. These three areas, according to city staff, could become urban renewal districts that could help fund their own face lifts, lot consolidations, streetscapes, water/sewer improvements, among others.
Also included in the plan is a call for a full time, or mostly full time, economic development coordinator – someone who actively engages business owners and owners of vacant or under-utilized properties to encourage them to partner with the city and other government and private entities to help transform the area into something new businesses and industries would want to become a part of. The coordinator would also aggressively reach out to target businesses and industries statewide that might either relocate or expand to Newport. Funding the position has not been thoroughly thought through, but city staff and the council speculated that the salary and other benefits might be provided among a number of sources, including the city of Newport, Lincoln County, Central Lincoln PUD, the Port of Newport, the Newport Chamber of Commerce, along with active civic groups and other organizations.
The council voted unanimously to adopt the new economic development plan. The next steps appear to be starting up those new urban renewal districts as well as getting the economic coordinator hired – a process that staff estimated might take a year or two.