FALLS CITY — The city of Falls City has applied for a Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (Rare) worker to help with economic development-focused city projects.
The Rare Program is part of a graduate program at the University of Oregon, and places about 30 graduate-level participants in rural communities to work for about 11 months.
“They come from all across the country … to work in places like Falls City. Usually there’s about 60 communities in the state of Oregon that are trying to go after these folks,” said Michael Held, former Rare program participant who is now a mentor for Rares. “It’s a highly sought after, in-demand kind of program.”
He said the candidates are technically employees of U of O, and have the research and faculty available as resources as they work on projects for cities and agencies.
Mac Corthell, Falls City’s city manager, said Rare candidates plan to work in careers focused on economic development.
“This is a group of people who want to make their career and are making their career in community development and economic stability, and all the good stuff that make cities thrive,” he said.
Corthell said part of the application package is outlining the projects the city would have a Rare candidate do while employed with the city. In Falls City, those include the continuation of the community visioning process that began in March and development of the city’s downtown.
He said the role of the Rare, who would arrive in September, would be to take plans and put them on a path to reality, which could include researching grants and other funding options.
Another project is to reinstate some now-defunct city committees that haven’t drawn enough members to function.
Corthell added, that if time allows, the Rare will help identify an occupant for a vacant former medical clinic on North Main Street, and assist the city with website, social media and media communications.
A Rare candidate costs $23,500 a year. Corthell said the city will apply for two $10,000 grants from Pacific Power and Ford Family Foundation to pay for a portion of that cost. If the grants are not awarded, the city earmarked $23,500 from its Community Development Revolving Loan fund to pay for the Rare.
Members of the council said they were in favor of applying.
“What a great opportunity,” said Councilor Lori Jean Sickles. “They’ve got the resources of the University of Oregon. That’s huge. I don’t see a downside.”
Initial applications were due on April 12, and Held said if the city is invited to submit a full application in June, there’s a pretty good chance they will be awarded a Rare.
“It’s really intentional about how it places people. Typically, you are going to get about five candidates,” Held said. “You’ll interview them like you would for a job. You’ll rank your preference and that participant also gets to rank their preference of where they are interviewed.”
Mayor Jeremy Gordon said these candidates are looking for opportunities to work in small communities.
“These are folk dedicated to rural development. This is where they want to be,” he said. “It’s not like Falls City’s a stepping stone to Portland.”