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Hermiston is working to diversify its employment base

HERMISTON, Oregon – The city of Hermiston has large employers, and has been aware what a hit its economy takes when one of those businesses shuts down and lays off its employees. Assistant to the City Manager Mark Morgan says that while Hermiston’s economy is growing, it has developable land for large employers, but it needs more land suitable to smaller industrial tenants.

“The Hermiston economy, while it has been seeing strong growth in regards to large employers, it’s relatively susceptible to volatility when those large-scale employers close their doors,” Morgan said.

He says the city is seeking a federal grant to fund such development of property that offers smaller businesses like electricians to provide more employment opportunities. The effort to develop a small industrial park near the Port of Umatilla was begun due to the layoffs when Hermiston Foods shut its doors.

That grant request, which should be filed later this summer, would take advantage of federal funds to aid in strengthening economies that are negatively impacted by large-scale layoffs. The requirement is that the layoffs must have occurred within two years.

The layoffs announced this week by Union Pacific at the Hinkle Yard are the second of a one-two punch. Morgan said the city hasn’t decided whether it will include the Hinkle layoffs in the current grant request.

“We may either proceed further with our application as is, using Hermiston Foods as the justification for the application,” he said. “Then, potentially still moving forward offer a second application sometime in the next two years using Union Pacific.”

Morgan said that the city will also explore the possibility that it can fold Union Pacific into the grant request and make it a larger request, thus allowing more development to occur in the first phase of the project.

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