After meeting most of the day with the local business and economic development community, the Lincoln County Fair Board sat down with those who hold events at the fairgrounds to get their opinions on how the fairgrounds could be revitalized and more economically viable.
Representatives from ECO Northwest, an economic planning and financial consulting firm, learned earlier in the day that any fairgrounds upgrade should include a meeting or convention facility capable of holding Newport’s Seafood and Wine event every February. They also learned that economic development, as spurred forward by the relocation of NOAA to Newport, needs a place to be celebrated and brought together to capitalize on surges of economic synergy.
The Fair Board and their consultants met Monday evening with traditional users of the fairgrounds; 4-H and their animals and home skills programs, equestrian events, farmers markets, dog lovers, music promoters and, of course, the annual county fair. All testified that they would expect the upgrading of the fairgrounds to accomodate their interests and to provide facilities for them. Newport OSU Extension Director Sam Angima said the fairgrounds should be a place where extension programs could be celebrated and honored as valued aspects of the community, including healthy child and family programs, master gardeners, nutrition, agriculture, forestry, marine and Sea Grant programs and all the rest.
Fair Board member and County Commissioner Bill Hall noted that practically everywhere you go around the state, if not the nation, fairgrounds, or exposition centers are seldom completely self-supporting. They require some local government funds to keep the doors open. Hall said once the consultants develop a building and business plan that fits Lincoln County’s needs, there is probably going to be required some kind of a property tax override to partially support the fairgrounds. Lincoln County voters recently approved such a tax override to take care of Lincoln County’s abused and lost domestic pets at the county’s animal shelter in Newport. Hall said such a subsidy will be required if the fairgrounds are to remain an important aspect of the cultural and economic life of Lincoln County.
The consultants took detailed notes on suggestions from the fairground users and indicated there will be other opportunities for the public to weigh in on the discussion. They said there will be progress reports along the way in defining realistic programs and financial realities in keeping the fairgrounds alive and vibrant. Their complete list of recommendations and costs associated with them, they said, should be wrapped up by late Spring.
They said those progress reports and other updates would be available on the county’s webpage as well as the webpage of EcoNorthwest at www.EcoNW.com