Project Rogue Valley: Coming together for a stronger county

We are a group of local residents who have been meeting for four months to share our deep concern for the future of Jackson County and our views on preparing for rough economic times we see coming. We are what some like to call "odd bedfellows." Our backgrounds are different, the towns where we live are different, the candidates we vote for are different, our opinions on plenty of issues are different.

We are putting all that aside. We've found solid agreement on a set of issues we believe are much more pressing than most of what we've fought over in the past. That's why we are establishing Project Rogue Valley, and asking everyone who shares our goals and commitment to this community to join with us.

Project Rogue Valley brings together two recent threads. One is the Jackson County Local Action Coalition, founded in 2009 to increase our valley's self-reliance and ability to access natural resources for productive use. JCLAC organized some large public events that hinted that the old political divisions of left versus right are breaking down. The drive for a vibrant, durable community and an economy that depends less on national and global systems has become strong enough to unite people who have usually been on opposite sides of the political divide.

The second thread was Jeff Golden's widely noted 2010 campaign for Jackson County commissioner. It was committed to building a stronger economy of locally owned businesses, fortifying local agriculture to increase both food security and rural jobs, and developing local energy and finance/investment systems to reduce the power of global firms over our quality of life.

Pretty soon conversations started among people who'd never sat down together before. The conversations continued and deepened after the election, leading to the launch of Project Rogue Valley, the new action agenda of the Jackson County Local Action Coalition. As we invite people of all political persuasions to join the project, we want to be clear and specific about its principles and intentions. You can read them at JCLAC's revised website,

There's a reason for the word "Action" in JCLAC's name. Though it takes patient communication and planning to bring such a diverse group together, we believe that the urgency of the times, and especially the grim economic prospects facing so many people in our county, call for more than conversation and speculation. In its first year of operation, Project Rogue Valley will focus on four program areas: fortifying local family-scale agriculture, advancing new forest-based enterprises, developing new opportunities for local investment and capitalization of small businesses, and promoting policies that increase the portion of government contracts using local vendors.

How effective will PRV be in these four areas? What other challenges will it take on?

That depends on how much county residents support and participate in its work. If your concerns are like ours, please learn more at our website, then join us for JCLAC/PRV's first big meeting, open to anyone who may want to join, at 7 p.m. Monday, May 16, at the OSU Extension Auditorium on Hanley Road in Central Point. Directions, a map and details of the meeting are also at the website,

We are determined to make a positive difference in Jackson County's future.

This column was submitted by Jackson County residents Lynn Barton, Lynn Blanche, Charles Brown, Larry Friend, Jeff Golden, Jessica Gomez, Mike Krebs, Bill Meyer, Jeff Reade, Will Reishman and Richard Whitley.

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