In November 2019, the Mt. Hood & Columbia River Gorge RDMO launched its first Strategic Investment Fund (SIF). The SIF was programmed to be simple and nimble to surface great investment opportunities in the region, with the first round of funding capped at $30,000.
Guidelines encouraged applicants to apply for projects that supported one or more key priority areas: new/improved tourism product, wayfinding, arts/culture/heritage, fishing, biking, trail congestion solutions, transportation congestion solutions, agritourism. Once awarded, projects were to be completed within 12 months.
The region received a total of nine applications, totalling $119,307 in investment requests. A review committee of tourism stakeholders used a set of criteria to help narrow the list down to four final awardees:
SIF awards were announced in February 2020. Just a few weeks later the COVID-19 pandemic hit, impacting the viability of many of the projects. The Mt. Hood & Columbia River Gorge RDMO responded by reaching out to each awardee, offering them time and flexibility to tweak their projects as needed to reflect the new pandemic normal. Changes included pushing back timelines by as much as a year later and adjusting objectives to fit new realities. The Oregon Mountain Biking Coalition was not able to move their project forward and did not have an alternative in mind so the Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge region pivoted those funds to support Hood River Mountain Biking and Brave Endeavors for their work with the non-profit CultureSeed. Funds will support mountain bike outings for underserved youth in the Columbia River Gorge.
A few quotes/updates from partners who received SIF: