What is needed to jumpstart economic development in city?

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From the Mayor’s Desk

The editorial in last week’s paper, Call it a day for the EDC (Economic Development Commission) reflects thoughts I have had for a while.

And I agree that a re-think of the city role in promoting economic development, particularly in the context of our Economic Opportunities Analysis in the Comprehensive Plan, would be helpful.

At regional and state meetings, I hear about opportunities and success stories that make me wonder if we have missed chances to bring dollars and programs here to deepen and strengthen our economic base. The meeting with Regional Solutions coordinator James Labar was particularly helpful in informing our business leaders of the program and services available toward streamlining state regulatory processes so projects could get done.

The Commission also heard from SEDCOR and the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments, both of which provide economic development programs and opportunities.  The piece that did not come together was how a city revolving loan funding could jump start redevelopment or expansion of businesses; in the meantime, however, the economy has taken hold and private investment has significantly advanced the business landscape of River Road.

Frank discussions regarding the status of the River Road Renaissance vision made it clear that the foundations of that plan have now been incorporated into our development code so each redeveloped property makes those improvements as part of the project. However, the further portion of the vision was for sections of River Road businesses to embrace a sector identity, with branding and logos to create distinct districts in which clusters of business types would be established. As the city found out years ago with neighborhood associations, just saying that you are a ‘district’ or a neighborhood association does not make it so. Both are organic in nature, born of a common set of values, goals or concerns.

The common values and goals that are already in place are for quality business plans, space to grow and park, pricing that reflects the local economy rather than trying to price like Portland or Seattle, and meeting growing and changing demands for goods and services that cater to the emerging millennial generation’s buying power as well as the significant baby boomer capital holdings. These values are not unique to sections of River Road but apply to our entire business community.

I want to thank the members of the commission, each of whom has shared their time and expertise. There was nothing in it for any of them, except the knowledge that they each have experiences that can help guide and shape policies to ensure they are in the best interests of the entire community – business included.

Going forward, we have an economic opportunities analysis that will guide any urban growth boundary expansion for employment lands. We have career-technical education programs that are preparing our students for well-paying jobs in many industries. We have a growing population that wants a Keizer that provides the goods, services and amenities that will continue to make Keizer a great place to live. And we have the Keizer way of facing these challenges and opportunities and solving them together as only Keizer can.

(Cathy Clark is serving her second term as mayor of Keizer.)

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