Age and experience can do strange things to people.
“If you had told me,” Jerry Sorte said, “that I would wind up living four or five blocks from my parents in the same neighborhood as my elementary school I would have told you you were nuts.”
But that’s what happened. Sorte, 38, the new economic development officer for the city of Corvallis, moved back to Corvallis 18 months ago when he took a community and economic development director position with Sweet Home.
And Sorte is just fine with being back home. He graduated from Corvallis High School in 1998 and received his bachelor’s from Oregon State University in 2002. His father, Bruce Sorte, was a community economist with Oregon State University and also served on the Corvallis City Council.
“He’s already telling me to read all these reports,” said Jerry Sorte of his father, who was renowned for his love of information and data when he was on the council.
“I’m in the place where I want to be,” Jerry Sorte in an interview Friday at City Hall.
Sorte takes over for Kate Porsche, who moved into the economic development manager slot when Tom Nelson retired at the end of January.
“I believe we’re positioned to build on the foundation that Tom Nelson developed during his tenure,” Porsche said. “Jerry is the perfect fit for Corvallis and Benton County: a consummate professional steeped in economic development, who is ready and willing to work with clients through the region.”
A key role for Sorte will be to work on retention and expansion for city and county businesses.
“There is an opportunity to be a problem-solver here,” he said. “Pulling together the resources of the city and the community and making the community thrive.”
Sorte emphasizes that his office is “just one tool in the toolbox” when it comes to economic development. He cited the Small Business Development Center at Linn-Benton Community College, the Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network, the Cascades West Council of Governments and local investors as other keys to the equation.
“It can be overwhelming for a business to see all of these partners,” he said. “We want to be right there as a connector for businesses. We’ll be surveying businesses to understand what barriers are there. It’s a dynamic world and we need to stay up to date with regulations and requirements.”
Sorte also emphasized that the office is countywide and serves Philomath, Alsea and Monroe and unincorporated Benton County as well as Corvallis.
“We need to continue to let people know that we are here,” Sorte said, “while at the same time letting them know what’s in the toolbox and how we can be a single point of contact to overcome barriers."
“We have a high quality of life here which is a direct result of city actions,” said Sorte, who said he likes working for cities and counties “because you are closer to where the rubber meets the road.”