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Hundreds of business leaders, elected officials and other key community stakeholders are meeting to learn and find common ground on ways to help coastal and other rural communities around the state thrive.

Today is the first day of the Oregon Coastal Caucus Economic Summit, with an estimated 1,000 interested individuals are in attendance. The theme – Infrastructure Investments: A Collaborative Approach – is guiding two full days’ worth of panel discussions. Today’s portion of the conference is at Three Rivers Casino in Florence. The second day, on Thursday, will take place all day at the Florence Events Center.

The Summit – sponsored in partnership with the Confederate Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians and the City of Florence – brings together business and academic leaders, government officials and stakeholders from the public and private sectors to explore topics that can lead to positive economic development opportunities in coastal and rural communities. It’s organized by the Oregon Legislative Coastal Caucus, a bicameral and bipartisan group of state legislators who represent communities on the Oregon Coast.

“Successful development of our rural and coastal communities requires us to develop and nurture collaborative relationships across the state and across political ideologies,” said Rep. David Brock Smith (R-Port Orford), Chair of the Coastal Caucus. “My colleagues and I are pleased to welcome such a diverse, influential group to learn about the challenges and opportunities in our region.”

Coastal Caucus Vice Chair Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) alluded to the deep need in Oregon to continue building bridges between rural and urban parts of the state so that all communities can prosper and thrive.

“We all have vital roles to play in contributing to and sustaining the constructive dialogues and developments that have become hallmarks of our annual Economic Summit,” she said.

A wide range of keynote speakers and panel discussions are focusing on planning, designing, building and operating infrastructure projects that are socially, environmentally and economically feasible and attractive to coastal and rural communities.

“With such a large concentration of elected officials, agency heads and local advocates and activities, it is clear that this Summit is one of the most influential gatherings in the state,” said Rep. David Gomberg (D-Otis), who serves as a Coastal Caucus member.

Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board Executive Director Meta Loftsgaarden and Oregon Water Resources Department Director Tom Byler were on hand today to discuss the state’s 100-year investment vision for Oregon’s water infrastructure.

“The Summit is an excellent venue to begin discussions with rural Oregonians about how to ensure we have clean and abundant water for our people, our economy and our environment,” Loftsgaarden said.

The Oregon Coastal Caucus Economic Summit has built a reputation as one of the region’s major think tanks, as well as a hub for collaborative planning and public policy development. Congressman Kurt Schrader and Congressman Peter DeFazio both participated in panel discussions, with Schrader moderating a question and answer session with Coastal Caucus members and DeFazio participating in a one-on-one conversation with Rep. Caddy McKeown (D-Coos Bay) on transportation infrastructure.

“These annual meetings provide a forum for the conversations that our small businesses and natural resource industries need to have in order to move our communities and our economies forward,” said McKeown, a member of the Coastal Caucus.

Sen. Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay), a key summit organizer and Coastal Caucus member, indicated that this year’s Summit is proving to be a particularly productive and meaningful event, contributing greatly to advancing coastal and rural economic development in the short and long term.

“Coastal Caucus members emphasize building a bridge between the urban and rural parts of the state by convening this economic conversation every year,” Roblan said. “We have a lot of difficult questions to address about a variety of issues so that coastal Oregon and other rural communities in the state can revitalize their economies and continue to grow. This event is an opportunity to bring people together from all parts of the state and all walks of life to have those conversations and find common ground that brings us together so we all can benefit.”

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