HEPPNER - U.S. Rep. Greg Walden , R-Ore., focused on economic development during a stop in Heppner Tuesday, part of a swing through Eastern Oregon while Congress is in recess.

He toured the downtown area as well as the newly-opened Heritage Plaza park on the north side of town.

Walden said he felt it was incredibly important for him to regularly visit the communities in his expansive district to let them know who is representing them.

"You always learn a few things about what is going on in a community," Walden said after a question-and-answer session with members of the Heppner Chamber of Commerce. "It keeps you in touch."

Traveling with Walden was U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development David Sampson.

Sampson, a former rancher from Arlington, Texas, has made several nationwide tours as part of the Bush administration's efforts to boost economic development in America.

"What the president believes is we have to have a business environment that is entrepreneur friendly," Sampson told chamber members.

Sampson said after the chamber meeting that he was impressed with Heppner's recent efforts to branch out and be creative to gain more business opportunities, especially in the tourist trade.

"That OHV park, that is a great example of looking for opportunities for new markets," Sampson said. "That's an example of an entrepreneurial mindset."

Sampson was referring to the recent "off highway vehicle" park south of Heppner that is proving to be a boon to Heppner's economy.

The visit to Heppner came immediately on the heels of a visit to Condon, where a grant of nearly $1 million was awarded to Gilliam County to build a grain laboratory to enhance wheat production.

Walden took time to address local business people's economic concerns by defending tax cuts made by the Bush administration for higher income citizens. Walden said the cuts encourage jobs by enabling large business owners to add infrastructure to their businesses.

"Those are jobs being created because of these tax cuts," Walden said. "We are trying to keep more money in the pockets of business owners and families."

Heppner Mayor Bob Jepsen said he appreciates Walden coming to Heppner and understands some of the major reasons for a tour like this.

"It's a campaign year," Jepsen said. "I've been around him quite a bit and he was well pleased with the people on this tour."

Walden has been a frequent attendee of Heppner's annual St. Patrick's Day celebration, the biggest event of the year for the south Morrow County community.

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