SALEM — The head of Oregon’s economic development agency will be stepping down at the end of the year, the agency said Thursday.
Chris Harder has led Business Oregon, overseeing a two-year budget of about $800 million, since March 2016.
The agency provides Oregon businesses with grants, loans and tax incentives to boost employment and attract employers, and helps communities update infrastructure like ports and water facilities.
Harder is taking a job in private business in Portland but isn’t disclosing details yet, said Nathan Buehler, a spokesman for the agency.
In a resignation letter dated Oct. 18, Harder thanked Brown for “the opportunity to serve” as director.
Harder is the second agency director to leave since Brown’s re-election a year ago. Matt Garrett, the longtime head of the Oregon Department of Transportation, retired in June.
“I am particularly grateful for your support of the agency and commitment to our mission to promote a globally competitive, diverse, and inclusive economy,” Harder wrote.
Brown said in a statement that under Harder’s leadership, the agency “has developed a solid foundation for its work to support the economic development needs of communities throughout the state.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing the work of our team at Business Oregon continue with its focus on rural areas and its efforts to make sure that prosperity is shared by all,” Brown said.
Harder is leaving after setting ambitious goals for the agency through 2022.
Last year, Business Oregon adopted a five-year strategic plan, focused on pushing technical innovation, economic stability in rural areas, growing small and middle-market companies, and creating more economic opportunities for people of color, immigrants and tribal communities.
“We are committed to working with our customers, public and private partners, and local and regional communities across Oregon to continue to make our state economy one of the most competitive and successful anywhere,” according to a report on the plan issued by Harder and Kanth Gopalpur, chair of the Oregon Business Development Commission.
The strategic plan also calls for the agency to look internally to make sure it is “inclusive, transparent and fiscally healthy.”
In April 2018, allegations emerged of a hostile work environment at the agency for older employees and women. Several months later, independent investigators reported they found no “evidence of a widespread toxic work environment or a pattern of discrimination against females or older employees.”
Reporter Claire Withycombe: [email protected], 971-304-4148.