Pilot Staff Writer

PORT ORFORD - Several economic development agencies gave presentations at the November Coos-Curry Electric Cooperative board meeting, but only one man represented six different entities.

Russ Crabtree, manager of the Port of Brookings Harbor, was introduced by Larry Walsh, president of the Oregon Development Group, as andquot;Mr. South Coast,andquot; a man involved in every aspect of economic development.

Crabtree represented three ports and three nonprofit organizations that day.

He said port districts were created to encourage sea, land and air transportation, and economic development.

andquot;Your port district is your tool,andquot; he said. andquot;I'm a strong advocate of ports. Ours are not competitive. They're complimentary.andquot;

In answer to talk in Salem of focusing economic development efforts on urban centers, Crabtree said, andquot;I still believe in rural Oregon.andquot;

andquot;Collectively,andquot; he told those at the meeting, andquot;we have a lot of strength.andquot;

Port of Brookings Harbor

In his 14 years with the Port of Brookings-Harbor, he said, he has watched it become andquot;the highest quality, newest facility on the coast.andquot;

Crabtree is currently working on a proposal for a new hotel at the port, as well as a fish processing facility that will put 30 employees back to work and provide a market for Gold Beach and Port Orford fishermen too.

He said the port was close to signing a lease on a cold storage facility and marine fueling station.

andquot;We drive our own pilings, build our own docks, and save 50 cents on the dollar,andquot; said Crabtree.

He also announced a recent victory in Salem. He said that after seven years of negotiations about the rock revetment that was built to keep Sporthaven Beach from eroding, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department had finally agreed to pay the cost.

Curry Economic Development Corporation

Crabtree said the corporation has created or retained 65 jobs with its $1.4 million revolving loan fund.

andquot;We're one of the most aggressive advocates for private sector development,andquot; he said.

The corporation is also backing a cardiac rehabilitation unit for Curry General Hospital.

Port of Gold Beach

Crabtree said the Port of Gold Beach is more focused on the Rogue River fishery and the tourism economy.

andquot;They do an exceptional job in marketing Gold Beach,andquot; he said.

Crabtree said the Gold Beach port could do more to develop retail and small businesses.

Working with economic development partners, said Crabtree, andquot;I'm confident both ports can go forward. We can change the economic development climate of Curry County.andquot;

Port of Port Orford

Crabtree said he sees a unique opportunity for the Port of Port Orford. andquot;We must maintain the mystique and activity of the port. There are 60 boats there. We can't let it decline.andquot;

He said the port must continue to receive a special kind of maintenance dredging to survive.

Crabtree also expressed a bit of frustration over the port.

andquot;We have not been asked to be in Port Orford to help,andquot; he said. andquot;If we'd been asked, we'd be there.andquot;

andquot;The Port of Gold Beach is in lock-step with us,andquot; he said. andquot;Port Orford could be in with us too.andquot;

Klamath Management Zone Fisheries Coalition

Crabtree said salmon fishing had been cut to seven days a year before the Oregon/California coalition was formed, but the season is now back to 90 days or more a year.

andquot;We have to stay actively engaged at the state level,andquot; he said.

Crabtree said the coalition employs state and federal lobbyists, but gets a tenfold return in appropriations for what it spends.

He said maintenance dredging for the ports was zeroed out in the president's budget, so he went to Washington, and is going back in February.

andquot;We want a helping hand, not a handout,andquot; he said. andquot;We'll do the rest. We keep our projects way up on the radar scope.andquot;

andquot;We have to have the basic infrastructure in place before the windows of opportunity close,andquot; said Crabtree. andquot;We need to build a team to do that before we can attract businesses.andquot;

He also said Curry County needs to retain its traditional businesses, such as timber, agriculture and tourism.

andquot;Our partnerships are unique,andquot; he said of Curry's economic development efforts. andquot;We need to put them under one clearinghouse.andquot;

Pelican Bay Telecommunications

Crabtree said Pelican Bay Telecommunications was developed to bring fiber-optic technology and affordable cable television to the Port of Brookings Harbor area.

He said the port has also installed the infrastructure to sell gas to the general public, and is looking to the Legislature for authority to do so.

Even if that never happens, said Crabtree, the effort brought an awareness of the high gas price problem in Brookings.