Craftsmen and economic developers in Clatsop County are putting to work the pride they have for living in the oldest settled area west of the Mississippi.
Oregon’s first guild comprised of historic preservation craftsmen is expected to be launched this month providing craftspeople — including fine woodworkers, tile makers, roofers and stained-glass blowers — with networking and marketing opportunities to attract new business. Of the 72 businesses involved in historic preservation work, 32 are interested in being guild members, which has annual dues of $350.
“We would like to establish this region … as a center for excellence in historic preservation,” says John Goodenberger, a local historian and writer.
Rick Gardner, the executive director of Clatsop Economic Development Resources, says the effort is designed to create an economic cluster in historic preservation that will brand Astoria, the rest of Clatsop County and Washington’s Pacific County as the geographic area with the most expertise in the Pacific Northwest in historic preservation. “We’re trying a cluster approach that looks at businesses and industries that we think are naturally advantaged by our region,” he says.
The hope is also to retain and create jobs not only in the craftsman industry, but related industries in retail and construction. “There’s a lot of historic buildings in Astoria,” says architect of Jay Raskin, the owner of Ecola Architects. “There already is a trend of restoring buildings.”
Raskin is also an adjunct faculty member of Clatsop Community College’s new historic preservation program. The certification program began in the fall of 2009. Raskin says the College was expecting to have up to six full-time students, but enrollment increased in the winter term to 25 full- or part-time students.
One of the hopes for the academic program, says Ed Overbay, owner of Overbay Houseworks in Warrenton, is that it will complement the guild’s efforts to beef up jobs.
Overbay specializes in fine woodworking. He has laid off 70% of his workforce in the last year, and says his sales have dropped by the same amount.
“I think we’ll have a better chance of surviving if we work together,” Overbay says.