River city success

River city success

 

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Above: Griffith Motors' new location along I-84 opened up a valuable piece of downtown property. "We're like anybody anyplace else," says owner David Griffith. "We need to attract more economic development."
// Photo by Sierra Breshears
Below: CGCC's Dan Spatz says the school is creating a "technology ecosystem" around green energy, unmanned aerial vehicles and other industries.
//Photo by Jon Bell
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Overall, there is a sense in The Dalles that the city is finally starting to see the fruits of labors started long ago. But just as some of those efforts have taken years to come to light, there is still much to be done. Unemployment in Wasco County in June was at 8.8%, a few ticks above the statewide average. Median household income in 2010 was at $42,000, about $6,000 less than Oregon as a whole.

Although Walmart has been trying to come to The Dalles near the port for years, environmental concerns over wetlands and runoff have slowed that and other endeavors. Methamphetamine has reared its ugly head, and a lack of affordable housing adds a constraint.

The Dalles, whose population grew from 12,200 in 2000 to 14,400 in 2011, has also always had to work against a particular preconception from outsiders.

“People do tend to think that the Gorge ends in Hood River,” says Salvador Miramontes Jr., director of marketing and communications for the chamber.

Likewise, the port’s Klaas says businesses prospecting for a new location don’t often look as far east as The Dalles, even though the area’s amenities — available industrial and commercial land — and relative proximity to Portland can rival those along the I-5 corridor. The area even has a unique airport just across the river that’s been recently upgraded and is readily accessible to corporate jets.

“Somehow we just need to educate people and get them to broaden their horizons a little bit,” she says.

Through its efforts at downtown and riverfront revitalization, workforce development, an effective lobbying group called the Community Outreach Team and many other avenues, The Dalles is trying to do just that. The chamber, too, recently launched a marketing campaign that highlights The Dalles’ 300 days of sunshine, its recreational bounty and its economic potential.

It will, of course, take more than marketing campaigns and waterfront trails to get The Dalles where it’s long wanted to go. But the fact that so many years of planning and effort have finally become tangible this summer makes a pretty good case that The Dalles just might be on its way.

“It’s going to be a couple of really good years,” Young says.

Jon Bell is a Portland journalist. Reach him at editor(at)oregonbusiness.com.">editor(at)oregonbusiness.com.