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  • Matt Moloney

Building a community-focused economic development strategy in Hermiston, OR with innovative shop local program

Nestled in the heart of eastern Oregon, Hermiston has embraced collaboration and innovation in its economic development strategy. In recent years, Hermiston has witnessed a fast pace of growth, driven by new residents and the establishment of data centers.

We spoke with Val Hoxie, the Executive Director of the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce about what makes her community unique and how they’re supporting their local economy. 

Val Hoxie Headshot - Economic Development Strategy

Developing key collaborations in Hermiston’s economic development strategy

Collaboration is key to Hermiston's success, and at the heart of this synergy is the partnership between the local Chamber of Commerce and the city itself. As the Chamber of Commerce embarks on engagement activities with their local businesses, they meet with the City Manager and Assistant City Manager regularly. They share event space, ideas and even newly-found resources. Together, they work as the driving force behind the city’s economic development strategy, creating a positive environment for businesses to grow.

“Our mission is to create an environment and promote future businesses, current businesses, and the city and the chamber work really well hand in hand in doing that." Val Hoxie, Executive Director of the Hermiston, OR Chamber of Commerce

Boosting prosperity: Hermiston's Open Rewards

One of the catalysts fueling Hermiston's economic development strategy and prosperity is the Open Rewards program—their take on a shop local program. The program not only fosters support for local businesses, but also empowers the community to actively participate in its growth. Focusing on restaurants, Hermiston's Open Rewards program rewards diners for patronizing local businesses. Customers receive 5% cash back when they dine at these restaurants, which is sponsored by the City of Hermiston. It’s made extremely easy through the use of the Open Rewards platform, powered by Bludot, an economic development software provider. 

The Hermiston Open Rewards program is a direct result of their collaboration with the city—the Assistant City Manager introduced the Chamber to Bludot and the city is funding the credit that diners receive back. However, the Chamber of Commerce is responsible for the engagement and marketing of the program. The Chamber has taken that role seriously—using all sorts of mediums to engage all members of their community.

Currently, you can find marketing campaigns about the Open Rewards program on the radio, newspapers, Facebook, Instagram and even TikTok. They also visit the restaurants and sample the lunches, shining a little spotlight on that restaurant and making sure viewers know the restaurant is participating in the Open Rewards program. Much of their marketing campaigns are focused on educating their community on how to participate. 

“My advice to communities that are interested in it, would be to really talk about it a lot, share it. You have to really teach the community how it works.” Val Hoxie, Executive Director of the Hermiston, OR Chamber of Commerce

The Chamber of Commerce and the city have realized tremendous success using this program because it is so easy for the restaurants to participate. In fact, Val mentioned how the establishments don’t have to do anything—which makes it a no brainer for many of them to say “yes” to participating.

Seamless expansion for the future

Bringing in a program that is an easy lift is important when involving organizations that may be under-staffed or already have a long to-do list. Many restaurants are extremely busy and don’t want to take on an additional administrative task—and on the flip side, many Chambers, like Hermiston, are managing staff turnover or new growth.

For Hermiston, they felt that they couldn’t fully put in the effort that this holiday season deserves, but that the Open Rewards program gave them a great platform to expand for next year. Additionally, the dashboard makes it easy for Val’s team to see where it needs help, where it’s doing well, and where they can help bump the program. 

"I've had a few calls from other communities... asking about Open Rewards. So, I can tell it's catching on. That really excites me because it really has worked here. The community truly loves it." Val Hoxie, Executive Director of the Hermiston, OR Chamber of Commerce

Initiatives with a giving heart can be part of your economic development strategy

Looking ahead, Hermiston has its sights set on future initiatives that promise to elevate the city's community spirit and economic development strategy even further. 

One such initiative is the Adopt Your Street program, a unique twist on the Adopt a Road concept, bringing the community together on a local level. It’s clear that Hermiston’s economic development strategy embraces the local giving culture.

“I've lived all over Oregon specifically but travel quite often, and Hermiston really has that unique philanthropy, giving heart. Everybody is doing something for somebody else constantly." Val Hoxie, Executive Director of the Hermiston, OR Chamber of Commerce

If your community is ready to embrace new economic development strategies and empower your local economy, we can help—schedule a call with Bludot today.


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