Cascade Locks Port adopts business plan | News

Cascade Locks Port adopts business plan | News

CASCADE LOCKS — Encouraging economic growth through tourism and recreation, plans use of port property, and modernizing internal operations are the goals in Port of Cascade Locks for the next five years. The port will follow an updated strategic business plan, adopted by port commissioners on June 18, their last meeting of this fiscal year.

This plan is “really the blueprint for port of Cascade Locks that’s gonna guide the next five years of work,” Moss Adams consultant Annie Fadely said. It centers Cascade Locks’ status as a “renowned recreation destination,” with an economy mostly driven by tourism and recreation; lead industries there include retail trade, arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food services.

A public survey on the finished plan turned up 23 responses from community members, most positive, with one expressing “I’ll believe it when I see it” views, Fadely told commissioners. For a survey of this type, 23 respondents is a pretty solid number, fellow consultant Jessie Lenhardt explained.

The Moss Adams consulting team helped develop the plan in collaboration with port leadership, staff, and Cascade Locks businesses and residents, finishing with commissioner feedback and an a positive Oregon Business Development (OBDD) evaluation.

The port’s mission is to drive economic growth, recreation and tourism “through partnerships, care for our community and preserving Bridge of the Gods,” Fadely described. Maintaining Bridge of the Gods is a big component. The port has already accepted $6 million from Congress this year to study the potential for seismic retrofitting, a pedestrian walkway and other restoration and improvements.

The plan calls for an additional $6 million, to fund those upgrades over the next three years, and $90 million over the next 15 years for major improvements and preservation.

Support for downtown revitalization and local housing efforts, development of a land-use strategy, and management plans for the port’s financial assets and property are also in the plan updated, which was funded by a grant from Business Oregon.

Plan unanimously adopted, commissioners sat down to discuss one of its objectives — finalizing their new grant fund — and the many grants they can apply for on their own behalf, to finance the plan’s goals and projects.

The port has a grant fund of $260,000 with $110,000 already committed to a City of Cascade Locks, as required local matching funds for a federally-funded update to the city’s electrical system. That leaves $150,000 to award within the port district. “These are not charitable donations. These are finance agreements. These are for a purpose,” said Deputy Executive Director Genevieve Scholl.

The port is governed by Oregon law that dictates what they can do with money. They can’t make charitable donations, but can use grants for economic development. Grant recipients will need to give evidence that their project aids economic development in Cascade Locks.

“I don’t think there’s another port in the Gorge that has a grant program, and so this is unique to us,” said Scholl.

“I think if you guys set this program up, this is something that other ports will follow,” added Executive Director Jeremiah Blue. The grant allows fair and transparent distribution of port funds, something he noted other ports can have difficulty with.

Commissioners held a long discussion on grant fund requirements. No final decisions were made.

On its own behalf, the port can seek grants that other governments and nonprofits can’t, and there’s “a vast, vast diversity of funding that is available because you are a special district local government and you’re an economic development entity,” Scholl told commissioners.

She’s seeking grants for projects listed on the region’s several community-adopted plans, projects now eligible for state and federal funding due to their listing. Every staff member at the port will be working on grants, which Scholl called “tremendously expensive money, actually, to go after. So you really need to make it count.”

Commissioners expressed the feeling that the three-hour meeting was a historic night for the port.

“I have a feeling that years from now, we’ll be able to look back and kind of point to tonight as a pivoting point, for the Port of Cascade Locks,” said Commissioner Albert Nance.

During public comments, commissioners heard an update on the Main Street program from Cascade Locks City Councilor Denise Emmerling-Baker. The city’s program has gained Affiliated status, and thus more access to grants, and meets regularly to plan projects for the downtown Main Street area.

Government affairs consultant Dan Mahr updated commissioners on funding possibilities for Bridge of the Gods in the 2025 legislative session, and the potentially years-long process of getting federal funding for projects. The port did not decided whether to immediately pursue another six million on the Washington side, to match Oregon’s funding, but Mahr said they are “all systems go” if they do.

In other news, the port approved:

A letter of support for the Hood River-White Salmon Bridge Authority’s funding request;

An update to the employee handbook, last changed in the early 2000s, which will alter multiple employee policies;

Ratification of bills in the amount of $587,313.90;

Approval of payroll for June 4, 2024 in the amount of $41,449.47.

Originally Appeared Here