Notes from Colleen’s Desk: The Other Side of the Mountain

I trust that you recognize that mountain. It is actually the other side (from the northeast) of one of our beloved Southern Oregon landmarks, Mt. McLoughlin.

How did I happen to snap that photo in particular? Well, I chose to check out a new trail into the Sky Lakes Wilderness, from a different access point. My sister and I ended up making it a nearly 7-mile loop, passing Round Lake and Blue Lake and also making the additional short jaunt to Horseshoe Lake, then coming back along the Cat Hill trail where I snapped that photo.

New trails can be a bit daunting – because you do not know what to expect. Your confidence level may even be shaky – despite that cool trail app you recently downloaded.

Some paths are simply not taken as often and so it is much easier to lose your way. The questions or doubt in your mind begin to outweigh thoughtful hiking and you trip up on a few of those downed limbs; more than once in my case  –  I have the scrapes and bruises on my legs that tell the whole story!

I don’t think I’ve really seen the mountain from that angle before – which of course led me to thinking about new perspectives. Sometimes, it simply takes a pandemic to force us into blazing a new trail. Or it’s a really rough patch in a familial relationship that is driving you mad and driving you to self-reflect on you own communication habits, your routine, and maybe some fences you’ve erected that keep you from seeing the other person’s perspective.

When I started to pen this blog and hinted about my proposed title to a staff member, I learned of a book she’d read as a youth, written by Jean Craighead George in 1959 with a similar title “My Side of the Mountain.” What intrigued me most were the words “my side”. Whether the issue at hand is global, social, relational – it is not just our side. There is always another side to the story.

With this pandemic, SOREDI has stepped out of its normal operating mode and taken on some new work which has truly broadened our perspectives.  This includes serving as the administrative access point for the Matching Funds grant for Jackson County and Central Willamette Community Credit Union (CWCU). Collectively those two entities represent a potential of $355,000 in small business grants. CWCU is also working with Josephine County in a similar effort.  It is a new trail.

Earlier this week we were also notified of a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) award through Business Oregon that we are also administering – $150,000.  The City of Talent is leading this effort and is partnering with the City of Phoenix and Jackson County to get more financial resources into the hands of small businesses who employ/support low to moderate income jobs.  And our fingers are crossed that a second CDBG application for $150,000, led by the City of Rogue River in partnership with the cities of Butte Falls, Cave Junction, Central Point, Gold Hill, Jacksonville, and Shady Cove will be awarded in short order.  That is 9 jurisdictions and SOREDI all trekking together on a new trail blazed by Business Oregon.

And just last week a press release was issued about a $616,000 award to SOREDI from the Economic Development Administration to help us capitalize a new revolving loan fund in Southern Oregon, offering businesses impacted by the pandemic another low cost financing option to help them weather the storm. It’s another new trail– one that we have not blazed in about 20 years.

While the pandemic certainly impacts all businesses, it has been most felt by the retail and service sector.  SOREDI blazed a new trail about two months ago, when we were awarded $50,000 in private funding from the Oregon Community Foundation, which we in turn granted to 7 local chambers and a few small businesses.

Because of all these new trails, SOREDI is interfacing with retail businesses for the most part, which has not historically been an industry focus for SOREDI. We often talk about traded-sector companies – those for whom most of their sales and revenues are generated from outside the region, creating new wealth in our region.  Traded sector companies create primary jobs which are the backbone of an economy. Retailers and service sector companies are secondary jobs adding to the livability and placemaking appeal of every community.

We have been fielding calls and emails every day from hurting businesses. We have interfaced with close to 200 different small businesses and sole proprietors in just the last two months alone. We are seeing what is on the other side of the mountain.

It is a new perspective for SOREDI and it is creating some beautiful moments. A grant recipient from Shady Cove provided this testimony this week:  “I never thought I would qualify for any assistance, so being able to get some financial help for being out of work like this is so greatly appreciated. I feel like I won a lottery.”

It is a difficult time for most and SOREDI is grateful to serve this region. We are even more grateful for the collective spirit of 15 jurisdictions that truly reflect we are One Rogue Valley, who are blazing new collaborative trails themselves and seeing the other side of the mountain.

May I end by spurring you on to explore the other side of your mountain – whether physical, social, relational, or otherwise. I know you will discover a new and relevant perspective and something beautiful (Round Lake, pictured).

Blazing new trails,

Colleen Padilla, Executive Director

Trail name “Spur”

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