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|Articles - October 2012|
|Monday, September 24, 2012|
Page 2 of 4
Salem: A city in search of itself
In the basement of one of Salem’s historic buildings, Carole Smith, a downtown property owner, is talking about one of the main problems facing Oregon’s second-largest city. “We’re always saying: ‘Portland does this, Portland does that.’ We need to come up with our own solutions.”
Forty miles from PDX, Salem suffers a bit from low self-esteem and dependency issues, especially where its bigger, brasher neighbor to the north is concerned. But in a city where the economy has yet to improve — the unemployment rate is 9.6% — there are signs Salem is ready to carve out its own identity, one based on the city’s unique assets. Two very different initiatives — a city loan program that so far has funded value-added food businesses and an ambitious streetscape plan — are indicative of this approach.
Home to NORPAC Foods, Truitt Brothers and other food-processing giants, Salem is now supporting smaller specialty food and beverage companies that capitalize on local, sustainable food trends. A case in point is the Fairview Urban Renewal Area small-business pilot program, an initiative that offers loans to existing manufacturers in need of capital to grow, then forgives up to 70% of the loan in exchange for job creation. So far, the program has awarded loans to three food and beverage companies, says Wales, the city’s urban development director.
“Our goal is to grow the next Kettle Chips,” he says, referring to the Salem-born company, now owned by Diamond Foods. One potential candidate is Wandering Aengus Ciderworks. The artisan cider company grossed $500,000 in 2011; that figure is expected to exceed $1 million in 2012, says marketing director and co-owner James Kohn. For his part, Kohn would like to see Salem convert some of the surrounding grass-seed farms to specialty apple orchards. “We’re trying to sustain growth in locally sourced products,” he says.
Across town, business owners in the central core are working on another Salem-sourced project, a streetscape plan built around the vision of Elizabeth Lord and Edith Schryver, renowned garden designers who lived in Salem in the early 1900s. Linking Riverfront Park to the capitol, the gardenscape would put a local stamp on the downtown revitalization trend, says Eric Kittleson, president of the board of the Downtown Partnership. By drawing tourists who visit the Oregon Garden in Silverton, and helping Salem Hospital and Willamette University attract high-caliber employees, the landscaped downtown would also “be a huge driver for the Salem economy,” says Smith. Supporters hope to tap urban-renewal funds for the project, says Kittleson.
So far, more traditional downtown drivers have stalled. The Rivers, a high-end condo building, has sold only a few units; the long-anticipated mixed-use redevelopment of the old Boise Cascade mill is on hold. “We don’t have much to comment on at this time,” says Jason Tokarski, VP of Mountain West Investment, which purchased the site in 2007.
The city has other Salem-branded projects in the works, including putting the finishing touches on a unique 100-acre wetland in the 650-acre Mill Creek Corporate Center, the largest industrial site on the I-5 corridor between Sacramento and Canada, according to Wales. As the city moves ahead with these and other strategies, business leaders are trying to keep one guiding principle in mind. “We shouldn’t be advertising we’re close to Portland,” says Ray Burstedt, president of SEDCOR, a local economic development nonprofit. “We need to focus on who we are.”
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
BY TOM COX | OB BLOGGER
When I say, “Your Employee is Always Right,” I do not mean “right about the facts,” but rather “right about how they feel” and “right about how they want to be led.”
Wednesday, July 09, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR
Scott Kveton, the CEO of Urban Airship is taking a leave of absence from the company. As the story continues to unfold, here’s our perspective on a few of the key players.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
BY ERIC FRUTS | OB BLOGGER
Last year, the housing market in Oregon—and the U.S. as a whole—was blasting off. The Case-Shiller index of home prices ended the year 13% higher than at the beginning of the year. But, was last year a blip, or a trend?
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
By Kim Moore | OB Editor
The 2015 survey launched this week. It is open to for-profit private and public companies that have at least 15 full- or part-time employees in Oregon.
Monday, July 14, 2014
BY VIVIAN MCINERNY | OB BLOGGER
Some people think Amazon’s winking eye logo is starting to look like a hoodwink.
Wednesday, August 06, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR
Portland startup Green Endeavor strikes gold, inking a partnership with Underwriters Laboratories, an Illinois-based consulting and certification company with offices in 46 countries.
Thursday, July 31, 2014
BY MARY SPILDE | OB GUEST CONTRIBUTOR
Faced with the aftermath of the “great recession,” increasing concern about the environment and dwindling family wage jobs, we have some very important choices to make about our future.
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