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|Articles - October 2011|
|Thursday, September 22, 2011|
Page 4 of 15
Build it back better
Like other small towns across Oregon — across America — Vernonia struggles with higher unemployment and lower wages than urban areas, scarce capital, aging infrastructure, and the exodus of its youth. These problems have only deepened in the past several years with the recession and its lingering fallout. “We have to reinvent ourselves,” says Scott Laird, editor and publisher of Vernonia’s Voice, “because what we have isn’t working.”
But the town does have a Mayberry-esque charm; townspeople say it’s a safe place to raise kids; there’s freedom to roam. Situated in the Upper Nehalem Valley in the foothills of the Oregon Coast Range, it possesses exceptional natural beauty, and amenities such as the 21-mile Banks-Vernonia state trail built over an abandoned railroad, Stub Stewart state park and a mountain bike skills park next to Vernonia Lake. Tenacious, dedicated people make this their home.
Tony Hyde was in Portland in 2007 when the rains began and couldn’t get back to Vernonia to his family or his flooded home. He remembers talking to then-Gov. Ted Kulongoski, trying to think beyond just the raw recovery that would soon face the town, including having to move half of its homes, its schools and other public buildings outside the flood-risk area in the middle of town.
“Kulongoski asked me, ‘What does Vernonia look like in 20 years?’” Hyde remembers. That was a critical question. Vernonia once was a thriving timber town with more than 500 mill jobs until it was nearly wiped out in 1957 when the Oregon-American Lumber Company shuttered operations, its supply of big trees exhausted. Over the decades since, the town has fought to regain its footing, but never again attracted another anchor business.
The town had no chance without its schools. In 2008, Kulongoski designated rebuilding Vernonia’s schools an Oregon Solutions project, naming Hyde and Portland businessman Tom Kelly as co-chairs. Oregon Solutions, housed at Portland State University, is designed to cut red tape and build effective collaborations to tackle the state’s deepest problems.
The ambition was to not just rebuild the schools, but “build them back better,” hook them to the sustainability sizzle in the state and position them as part of the growing green economy. Sustainability would be the true north of the town’s reinvention. How could a former timber town find its way back through those same woods? If part of the answer was a green school that could help grow a local green economy, it might provide a beacon to other rural Oregon communities with aging schools and decimated economies. “We are not just putting a school back together,” says Hyde. “It’s about the future.”
Monday, January 26, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER
The 2014 Bend Venture Conference set a record for the most cash, investments and prizes awarded at an angel conference in the Pacific Northwest. Investments in the six winning companies exceeded $1 million. The 11th annual conference was hosted by Economic Development of Central Oregon.
Friday, January 23, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR
The Northwest Environmental Business Council previews the 2015 legislative agenda as Hatch Oregon celebrates Oregon's new community crowdfunding rules.
Thursday, January 29, 2015
BY JASON NORRIS | OB GUEST BLOGGER
Active vs. passive investing: what you need to know.
Thursday, December 11, 2014
There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation.
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
BY NISHANT BHAJARIA | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
Startups in the growth phase are associated with a fresh infusion of capital — human and financial — a curiosity factor and products to disrupt the market and drive demand. Portland’s economy gives off the same aroma.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
2014 was a year of wild contradictions, fast-paced growth and unexpected revelations.
Friday, January 30, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR
For those who were working, here are a few highlights of Charlie Hales' State of the City address.
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The official launch will be Jan. 14.