“When rural economies are strong, there are living wage jobs, parents have resources for their kids, there’s funding for schools, and there are reasons for young adults to come back to the community. It all weaves together.”
Kathleen Flanagan is a firm believer that rural communities are best suited to growing their economies from among local assets and ingenuity. As director of Community Economic Development for The Ford Family Foundation, Kathleen serves as liaison to economic development organizations across Oregon. She brings her deep experience with rural communities and tribal economies to her work with Foundation programs and grantmaking.
“Community economic development focuses on local assets and businesses’ contributions to a community’s livability,” says Kathleen. Kathleen leads Growing Rural Oregon (GRO), a long-term program investing in entrepreneurial ecosystem building. GRO helps accelerate business activity in rural communities to increase prosperity and economic resiliency, ultimately expanding opportunities for rural families and reducing stressors that negatively affect children.
Kathleen joined the Foundation in early 2016 after spending over 17 years as business development manager for Wildhorse Resort and Casino in Pendleton, an enterprise of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. She also drove the creation of the Nixyaawii Chamber of Commerce on the Umatilla Indian Reservation. Kathleen had the opportunity to build a new department for the Tribes and brought her program development, advocacy and planning skills to the Foundation. In addition, Kathleen literally had a front-row seat to rural economic development from the wheat truck she drove during harvest in Eastern Oregon, helping to develop the Pendleton Farmers Market, and as president of the Pendleton Chamber of Commerce board of directors.
She is a graduate of the Ford Institute Leadership Program and earned a dual bachelor’s degree in business administration and economics from Eastern Oregon University.
Back to team