A Fruitful Partnership


In Ashland, a public-private partnership results in online resources to help diversify the local economy.

Share this article!


In Ashland, a public-private partnership results in online resources to help diversify the local economy.

0215 ashland03 500px

In an era where political brinksmanship seems to have eroded much of the trust placed in government institutions, small cities like Ashland offer a glimmer of hope. This city in Southern Oregon is well known for its tourism and higher education-driven economy, in addition to its quality of life. But in an effort to diversify and support local entrepreneurs, stakeholders in both the public and private sectors have worked together, forging a close partnership to respond to the needs of local businesses.

A fruitful result of this partnership is the Ashland Business Resource, an online business portal providing relevant local resources for both existing businesses and budding entrepreneurs. The portal is an interactive website offering business tutorials, economic data, information on financing, and region-specific resources for businesses in the community as well those looking to relocate to the city from elsewhere. While a majority of the site features data analysis and resources, there is an entire section of the portal dedicated to individual industries in the city. Additionally, the portal highlights resources from the City of Ashland, including the newly established Enterprise Zone and e-commerce overlay. Unique to this economic development tool is that it is designed with an appealing look meant to engage the user with photos, videos and compelling stories to complement the data. Regularly updated content keeps users coming back for more.

“The vision for the portal originated from the Ashland Chamber’s desire to provide information for sustainable business growth,” says Sandra Slattery, executive director of the Ashland Chamber of Commerce. As the Chamber developed the concept, it became clear that assistance from the community was necessary to fully realize the vision for the portal.

0215 ashland01 500px 
Sandra Slattery, executive director of the Ashland
Chamber, introducing the Ashland Business
Resource Portal to Governor Kitzhaber.

So along with the Chamber and the City of Ashland, a number of community partners assisted with funding and content development (including US Bank, Asante Ashland Community Hospital, Project A, Southern Oregon University, Ashland Fiber Network, Business Oregon, Oregon Employment Department and the SOU SBDC). Together these stakeholders aim to make the portal an effective tool for business in different sectors of the local economy.

And while some may view the portal as just another online business resource, John Stromberg, Ashland’s mayor, says it addresses the lack of Ashland-specific information. “The portal enables local businesses to identify information that is relevant to their particular needs,” he says. Previously, much of the data and resources that existed focused on the entire region, ignoring the individual characters of the local business community. The portal bridges this gap, providing information that is specific to Ashland and its unique economic drivers.

It also makes it easier for entrepreneurs to access resources that already exist, helping them find support when they need it most. “The portal is a great platform for cross marketing all of the various resources that are already available to small business owners,” says Jack Vitacco, director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Southern Oregon University.

For example, an entrepreneur can see a schedule of classes and networking events directly on the website and also learn about the paperwork process for filing a business. This has saved the SBDC’s staff much time. “By referring prospects to the portal, our SBDC advisors can better serve their clients,” Vitacco adds.

0215 ashland02 500px 
        Sandra Slattery (second from left) with Ashland Chamber 
        board president Cindy Bernard. U.S. Senator Ron Wyden
        and state representative Peter Buckley accepting the eCity
        award from a Google representative.

For Jim Teece, co-founder and president of Project A, this collaborative partnership and the resulting business portal is just one aspect of the Ashland Chamber and City of Ashland’s long-term commitment to diversifying Ashland’s economy. “Nearly 20 years ago, Ashland built a fiber network,” Teece says, explaining that the Ashland Fiber Network is a critical resource for businesses in the city. “The portal is just another step forward in our commitment to economic diversity.”

Adam Hanks, management analyst for the City of Ashland, says “the business portal is a great example of the collaborative resources in our community, both public and private, with the collective skills, ability and desire to really go for it.” He says the portal will further enhance Ashland’s reputation for innovation — the city has twice received Google’s “eCity” award for well-connected online businesses.

“Seeing the business portal live and in use is yet another exciting indicator of the great partnerships within Ashland, continuing to work together to support the community and the local economy in unique and innovative ways.”​ n

Visit the Ashland Business Resource Portal online at www.ashlandbusinessresource.com.

What elected officials are saying about the Ashland Business Portal

Governor John Kitzhaber:

“The Ashland Business Resource Portal showcases true collaboration between the public and private sectors, driven by the Ashland Chamber of Commerce, with the common goal of better serving the business community and growing the local economy. The coordination between local governments and the private sector is critical to attract, grow and support businesses that help enhance the economy of Oregon. The Ashland Business Resource Portal is a true example of that statewide priority on a local scale.”

State Representative Peter Buckley

“The Ashland Chamber is the most proactive and progressive chamber I’ve ever encountered, and the portal is just another great example of their work. Sandra and her team not only embrace the energy and creativity that exists in Ashland, they enhance it, direct it and put it to use to help our economy succeed.”