Clatsop County commissioners have OK'd a new partnership to foster economic development county-wide.

Private business, area chambers, local governments and other agencies will collaborate to fund the two-year pilot program. A board of directors for the project will include representatives from both the public and private sectors.

The project grew out of meetings sponsored by the county last year, to create a grassroots community development program.

The group's name and other details have yet to be determined, but local leaders say it's a big step forward.

Rick Gardner, director of the Business Center for Clatsop Community College, said the program offers an approach to help businesses expand that's greatly needed locally.

"This isn't to say that the county isn't already doing good things," he said. "But we could do an even better job."

Seaside Chamber Executive Director Alan Smiles said private enterprise would lead the effort, and the program will provide personal services to local businesses. Another goal is to create a more cohesive approach to economic development.

"Currently a number of organizations provide similar or different services." He said. "The formation of an officially recognized economic development group will also enhance opportunities to leverage funding at the state and federal levels."

The commission voted May 23 to support the project. Clatsop County's share of the funding for the program is $60,000, derived from video lottery funds. The 2007 program budget totals $120,000.

The cities of Astoria, Cannon Beach, and Seaside and the Port of Astoria will each contribute $15,000. The private sector share, to be contributed by county businesses, is $45,000.

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