Economic development-wise, Sisters might learn something from Maupin. With a year-round population of about 490 residents (5,000 if you include the entire school district), Maupin is one of six incorporated cities in Wasco County and is situated in the "south county" which also includes the cities of Antelope and Shaniko.

Maupin's economy is based almost entirely on its one major asset: the Deschutes River. Important access points for whitewater rafters, kayakers, anglers and bird watchers abound along the river, and the community truly values its greatest natural resource.

But it wasn't always a recreation-based economy. Until the mid-1980s Maupin enjoyed a wood-products industry base and was known as a mill town like many other Oregon rural communities.

"We're a recreation town that can't get away from the fact that we were a mill town. The mill closed in the mid-'80s and now we're a young recreation town struggling to settle into becoming a recreation-based economy," said Rob Miles, owner of the Imperial River Company, a lodge and recreation provider located right on the Deschutes River.

Although log home construction provided jobs in recent years, the current recession put a damper on the construction industry, leaving seasonal-dependent tourism jobs as residents' only options.

The current recession (and much-publicized jobless recovery) has forced many rural Oregonians to consider other ways of making a living - starting their own businesses or working for themselves - right in their own communities.

But how does someone who's always worked for others start their own business? Who do they turn to for advice, mentoring, and direction?

Typical economic-development models in rural communities do not address the passions and desires of individuals who want to start a business. They concentrate instead on luring companies away from other locales, generally to achieve lower overall operation costs, or they try to help existing companies perform better. Their mission does not include the passionate entrepreneur who may be the sole


Non-profits like Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO), based in Bend, have had successes attracting new businesses to the region. The recent development of the Facebook data center in Prineville is a prime example. Up to 35 new jobs will be created as a result of EDCO's hard work. Unfortunately for Prineville, the net loss of jobs is much higher due to Les Schwab's corporate headquarters move to Bend.

And let's not forget Google's data center in The Dalles. As widely reported, many cities campaign for and would love to have a Google facility (with upwards of 200 jobs) in their community.

"The typical economic-development model says we should attract businesses that already exist in other areas. But that's a zero-sum game. One community loses and another one wins. Are we going to play the 'let's screw our neighbor' game?" said Rob Miles, Imperial River Company owner.

Maupin has done its share of trying to attract businesses - often referred to as "chasing smokestacks" - offering living/family-wage jobs, but to date has not been successful with that method.

Denny Ross, Maupin's mayor since 2003, remembers one conversation with a fellow graduate of Maupin High School who was talking about several companies that might like to locate in Maupin.

"He asked me what kind of incentives the city could offer to make a sweeter deal. I told him to tell his company friends that, in Maupin, you can go fishing at 6 a.m., go to work at 10 a.m., work until 6 p.m., and fish until dark. Maupin is the deal. The people we want here want to live in Maupin," said Ross.

So the dilemma remains: how does a small rural community like Maupin or Sisters help residents with new business ideas develop those passions into viable businesses that fuel community economic development?

In Maupin's case, Denny Ross came across a newspaper article about Dr. Ernesto Sirolli's "enterprise facilitation" method of stimulating economic development in rural communities;

Knowing that Maupin was struggling economically, Ross called the Sirolli Institute and inquired about the enterprise facilitation process.

"I was just amazed at the simplicity of the concept. The Sirolli folks told me that, for them, 'economy' was simply communities of people doing beautifully what they have a passion for doing. The better they are at it, the better the economy," said Ross.

"We hadn't been considering a 'bottom up' approach to economic development. Like many other communities we thought we had to use a 'top down" approach, try to attract businesses with jobs to relocate to Maupin. This really changed my outlook on economic development," added Ross.

Ross then read Dr. Sirolli's book, "Ripples from the Zambezi - Passion, Entrepreneurship and the Rebirth of the Local Economy." Based on his work with a small rural community in western Australia, Sirolli developed a community economic development approach based on harnessing the passion, determination, intelligence and resourcefulness of the local people.

Sirolli's principles involve a committed volunteer local resource board, who hires an "enterprise facilitator" who is then trained by the Sirolli Institute. The facilitator does not initiate projects or promote "good ideas." He or she responds to the interests and passions of self-motivated people.

The enterprise facilitator and the resource board, with networking, help people form teams to move their business ideas forward.

Ross was convinced that enterprise facilitation, using the Sirolli method, would be the key to Maupin's economic development future. As 2006 rolled around, Ross' enthusiasm for the Sirolli method of enterprise facilitation was spreading. With the assistance of the Wy'East RC&D (Resource Conservation & Development) Council, a volunteer resource board comprised of approximately 10 professional and civic members was assembled.

Their first task, following the Sirolli method, was to hire an "enterprise facilitator" who would be available, free of charge, as the first point of contact for passionate people with business ideas.

"We needed someone who could be logical, impartial, a good listener, a 'prober' to find out people's real motivations. The person needed to be comfortable in both the board room and in the local pub, because that's where business happens in rural Oregon," said Rob Miles, resource board member.

Enter Greg Hohensee, the board's clear choice.

A master cabinetmaker from East Aurora, N.Y., Hohensee operated his own cabinet shop for a number of years - and realized that helping people in his community was his real passion.

"My role (as enterprise facilitator) was pretty simple. I was just the "connector," the person who connects passionate people with the information and resources they need to succeed," said Hohensee.

The program proved successful fairly quickly. In the two years (February 2008 - March 2010) that Hohensee held the position he worked with 114 clients spread over a service area that included six counties in Central and North Central Oregon. A total of nine new businesses were started. One in Madras, one in Moro, one in Wamic, two in Sisters, one in The Dalles, one in Prineville, and two in Maupin.

Maupin, due to Denny Ross' initial enthusiasm, became a hotbed for new enterprise ideas. Eighteen new microenterprise projects were started during the initial two-year period.

"Word spreads pretty quickly when your town has a year-round population of around 500, everyone knows everyone here," said Mayor Ross.

More information about Wy'East's enterprise facilitation project is available at Dr. Ernesto Sirolli's enterprise facilitation principles can also be found at