|| Print ||
|Monday, November 09, 2009|
The last time I visited Independence was on a cold morning three years ago, the day after Boise Cascade announced the closure of its veneer mill. The mayor and the city manager greeted me with coffee and optimism. When I returned recently, the optimism and coffee were still flowing.
The tiny city (2.3 square miles) on the west bank of the Willamette River has for the past three years been doggedly pushing on its economic development plans, and Mayor John McArdle and City Manager Greg Ellis seemed unbowed by the bad economy, job losses or high unemployment. The longtime mayor and Ellis were full-steam ahead on many fronts. “We’re not immune,” says the hard-charging McArdle. “We’re not Pollyanna. But it doesn’t pay dividends to say, ‘Woe is me.”’
Three years ago, the eight-screen movie theater had yet to open, the fate of the Boise site was unknown, the historic downtown struggled with vacancies, and the need for jobs was huge. Like many small, rural Oregon towns, the poverty levels were and are high.
In the ensuing years, the 850-seat cinema has opened and draws crowds from Monmouth, south Salem and Dallas, enough to help launch several new restaurants downtown: the Ragin’ River Steak Company, the Pink House Café and J. Bella’s.
When Boise closed after 43 years of operation, it took 29 good-paying jobs with benefits with it. The site was then bought by Oregon Alder for $4 million, which sold half the property to Forest River, a Dallas company that builds RVs and utility trailers. That operation opened a year ago, and employs about 100 workers, some of them transferred from Dallas. Oregon Alder was going to open a hard-wood mill, but that plan stalled when the housing industry crashed.
In 2007, the city won a Great Stride award from the Northwest Area Foundation for the “significant progress” it has made in reducing poverty long term. The foundation lauded the city for doing that by using tax incentives “to build stronger businesses with higher wages, such as those given to a cabinet company that expanded and in turn offered employees the potential of 50% wage increases from their starting salaries. Developing public/private partnerships, infrastructure projects, economic diversification, historic preservation, and tourism have all contributed to the city’s success.”
The city took the $100,000 award and used it to create a small-business incubator, which is scheduled to open in January in a storefront on Main Street with a half-time director.
There are more projects on the boards for Independence, including a new ball field. The 50-acre site was donated by Olsen Agriculture and the plan is to have six baseball fields and eight soccer fields completed by spring 2011.
The city just finished its vision plan for 2020. It’s an ambitious plan that calls for improving the historic downtown, finding more transportation options, provide more opportunities for youth, and increasing local living wage jobs. It's a town that is struggling with job loss, downtown vacancies and the bad economy, but it's taking action.
“One business in our community makes a difference,” says McArdle.
If you are tiny — especially if you are tiny — the house gets built one brick at a time.
Robin Doussard is Editor of Oregon Business.
|100 Best Green Workplaces in Oregon|
|The Green Paradox|
|Up in the Air|
|Credit Unions Perspective|
|Queen of Resilience|
|Did airlines collude to keep fares high?|
|Citigroup analyst thinks Puma should sell|
|OSU researchers examine warm-water mass|
|Appeals court rules against Apple|
|Microsoft to cut division, 1,200 jobs|
|Apple suppliers introduce 'Force Touch' to new iPhone|
|Uncertainty abound in Greece|
Tonkon Torp helps seed sustainability at Gunderson.
Oregon-based Environments helps companies create inspired workspaces. “Simply put, we help companies future-proof their workspaces,” says Chris Corrado, president. Since 1988,Environments has witnessed firsthand the changing landscape of business. Native Portlander and Environments founder Corrado says, “We help our clients navigate the complex realities of the workplace today and plan for their future in a very mindful, strategic way. We think of ourselves as their partners in the process.”
One hundred years ago, the Willamette River might easily have been mistaken for a sewer. Unchecked industrial activity and decades of pollution made it unrecognizable compared to the clean river that now flows north for 187 miles from Eugene through the center of Portland.
3 Degrees Event Celebrates 5th Year Bringing Nonprofit and Business Professionals Together to Benefit Portland.
Bend energy leader brings passion for efficiency and renewable energy to the nonprofit.
Event in Forest Grove marks recognition of Global Food Safety Initiative Certification.