Regional report: Valley city evolution

| Print |  Email
Articles - October 2012
Monday, September 24, 2012

 

Albany: Mill-town transition

1012 ValleyCityEvolution 03
 Above: Historic downtown Albany is attracting a growing numer of upscale shops and restaurants, part of an urban-renewal goal to draw more people to the central core.
Below: There are 23 restaurants in downtown Albany, including Sybaris Bistro, owned by James Beard nominee Matt Bennett.
//Photos by Sierra Breshears
1012 ValleyCityEvolution 08

This past winter, an entirely new kind of business set up shop in Albany: Seattle-based EnerG2, a green nanotech startup that develops engineered carbon material for energy storage. The company benefits from the presence of Albany’s wood-products companies, which supply raw materials used in manufacturing, says plant manager Shaun Mortensen. EnerG2 employs about 25 people and already plans to increase capacity next year.

Albany’s economy is rooted in heavy industry and wood products. But the decline of the timber industry — symbolized by the closure of the International Paper mill in 2009 — has dealt a blow to that identity and the local economy. Over 40% of the jobs lost in Benton County were in wood products. Heavy-metals companies such as Wah Chang have also sustained job losses. Meanwhile, the housing-market collapse undercut Albany’s reputation as a mecca for antiques shoppers. Pre-recession, there were 15 antique stores downtown, says Oscar Hult, executive director of the Downtown Association. “Today there are four.”

Some of Albany’s traditional economic drivers are in decline. But a new generation of businesses is helping offset those losses, building on the city’s core strengths while also diversifying the city’s brand. For example, EnerG2 chose Albany in part because of the city’s reputation as a material-processing center and proximity to Oregon State University in nearby Corvallis. Vice president of manufacturing Phil Souza says the company also collaborates with Oregon Freeze Dry, which is building a new facility focusing on novel freeze-dry pharmaceutical technologies. The plant will employ about 35 people.

New types of businesses are also opening in Albany’s historic downtown, where a decade-old urban-renewal effort has created a mix of charming, renovated historic buildings. Capitalizing on the mid-Willamette Valley craft-brewing craze, Deluxe Brewing Co. and Sinister Distilling will open this fall. Another new establishment is Sweet Red Coffee & Wine Bistro, serving contemporary cuisine such as roasted asparagus with balsamic chili reduction and mushroom fondue. Albany has always been a French fries and bar food kind of town, says owner Cindi Alire. “I want people here to experience something out of their comfort zone.”

Not all downtown real estate is thriving. The WheelHouse, a sleek new waterfront office/restaurant/retail building, was completed in 2010 but, so far, has attracted only one tenant. Law firms, stockbrokers, restaurant owners and other prospective renters are “being cautious and conservative,” says developer David Johnson, who financed the $7 million building by selling a custom-packaging company he founded. Still, he’s optimistic about the future.

Albany is changing; it’s becoming a bedroom community for Corvallis and attracting more people interested in downtown amenities. Besides, says Johnson, pointing to sweeping views of the Willamette, the central core has a precious resource few communities possess. “There are only so many natural waterways,” he says.



 

More Articles

On the Road

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

My daughter turned 18 last week, and for her birthday I got her a Car2Go membership. Not to label myself a disruptor or anything, but it felt like a groundbreaking moment. The two of us, mother and child, were participating in a new teen rite of passage: Instead of handing over the car keys, I handed over a car-sharing card — with the caveat that she not use the gift as her own personal car service.


Read more...

Courtside

April 2015
Thursday, March 26, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Power lunching at the Court Street Dairy Lunch in Salem.


Read more...

The best crisis is the one you avoid

Contributed Blogs
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
crisisthumbBY GARY CONKLING | GUEST BLOGGER

Avoiding a crisis is a great way to burnish your reputation, increase brand loyalty and become a market leader.


Read more...

The 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon

March 2015
Thursday, February 26, 2015
BY KIM MOORE | OB RESEARCH EDITOR

Employment in Oregon is almost back up to prerecession levels — and employers are having to work harder to entice talented staff to join their ranks. This year’s 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon project showcases the kind of quality workplaces that foster happy employees. 


Read more...

Are wolves good for business?

Contributed Blogs
Friday, March 06, 2015
030615-wolf-thumbBY JEFF DELKIN | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

As a local business owner, I believe it’s important to build our economy on a platform of conservation values.  


Read more...

Announcing the date of the 100 Best Green Workplaces in Oregon event

News
Friday, March 20, 2015
OBM-100-best-Green-logo-2015-250pxwBY OB STAFF

Join us to celebrate and network with Oregon’s best green workplaces!


Read more...

The Road to Reinvention

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN

Damian Smith bets on changing himself — and Portland — through consulting.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS