In late August, I spent two days in Florence at the 8th Annual Oregon Coastal Caucus Economic Summit (OCCES). It was my second year attending the event. The summit provides a great opportunity to hear the unique perspectives, challenges and opportunities of Oregon’s coastal communities and residents.
I had a bit of a drive back and forth from Florence, which gave me plenty of time to think about coastal Oregon, and also an opportunity to see some of the rural communities along the way that are deeply connected to the coast. I wasn’t too far outside Eugene when I started to pass through rural communities. It was clear that many of these communities are dependent on natural resources, including agriculture, fishing and forestry.
Florence itself was a wonderful and welcoming community for the 600 attendees at the OCCES. Since it was my first visit, I woke up early and walked along the historic Old Town. I saw some gorgeous scenery, and realized what a vibrant area this is for the local economy.
The summit covered a wide range of topics, including housing, tsunami preparation, transportation, broadband access, workforce development, education and water infrastructure. One theme that was woven through every topic was the unique challenges and opportunities of our coastal communities.
Coastal Oregon is unique in many ways, including a large number of small communities, a high number of senior citizens, and dependence on tourism and natural resources. One thing coastal Oregonians have in common with other parts of the state is their desire to build healthy, sustainable communities where they can live and work while providing the best opportunities for their families.
There are many good examples of opportunities that will benefit our neighbors on the coast, including the ability to expand broadband infrastructure, expand access to pathways to higher education, and find new ways such as telehealth to provide healthcare to these communities.
After listening for two days and meeting many coastal residents, the one thing I came away with was that it’s crucial that we all listen and hear multiple perspectives. Oregon’s coast, its communities and residents are part of the fabric of our state. By engaging with them and learning more, the state will be a better place.