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Client Spotlight - Lea Gettle

Client Spotlight - Lea Gettle Main Photo

25 May 2020


Blog, News, Client Spotlight

Client Spotlight - Lea Gettle

In an effort to recognize some of the greatest economic developers, clients, and partners we work with, we share these client spotlights to inspire you and give you insights on the successes and challenges that they face.

We welcome Lea Gettle to our client spotlight!

“I didn’t choose economic development, economic development chose me!” said Lea Gettle, Manager of Administration and Strategic Services at Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative. Growing up, Lea’s parents owned a large RV park and resort, meaning that from the age of 13, she worked every summer in the tourism industry. They lived in a very small rural community where tourism was the #1 industry. Lea served on the chamber of commerce board as their high school representative and helped with local event planning. After graduating high school, Lea made the conscious decision to move away from the rural area due to the contracting economy. Little did she know that after college she’d find herself in another small rural community, but this time in Eastern Oregon. For several years, she was the Historical Museum Executive Director which led her back into tourism and, in turn, economic development, as they were very closely related in the county.

When Lea joined the Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative, she quickly found herself involved in the economic development activities throughout the four-county region. Electric cooperatives are non-profit and member-owned, meaning that they work for the members who purchase power from them. “A key to our success is the success of our communities,” said Lea. Growth and the health and vitality of the communities is the main theme in their strategy, making involvement in economic development important!

Some of Lea’s favorite things about her job include spreading the word of how beautiful Northeastern Oregon is. They serve 4 very different counties encompassing 22 communities- they’re all unique and have different things to offer, making every day a new adventure!

In contrast, Lea acknowledges that there are some challenges that come along with the job. For example, attracting visitors and workforce to rural areas can definitely be difficult, but, as always, the innovative spirit of rural communities perseveres. This ability to survive through “shop local” campaigns, entrepreneurship and innovation solve long-standing problems that position them to come back stronger than ever post-pandemic. COVID-19 has been hard on everyone, and rurally her region has been hit especially hard. Lea jokes, "The upside is it’s awfully easy to social distance with this much space!"

Being a non-traditional “economic developer” has given Lea a unique perspective and approach on how the electric cooperative can partner with traditional economic developers for the greater good. A great example is the virtual reality FAM tour videos they produced. She knew they’d benefit economic development and tourism professionals, but they’ve seen far-reaching engagement from community partners not often involved in those types of projects and it’s been a great success for them all! Want to learn more about these virtual reality and 360-degree videos? Download Golden Shovel's eBook "Small Town. Big Tech."

Lea offers some advice to other communities and economic developers, “If you’re served by an electric cooperative, make them your partner! We’re here to help our communities because what’s best for our member-owners is what’s best for us as a non-profit company. We have the same mission so let’s work together!”

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