Challenge: Maintain revitalization momentum

One of the challenges of any public effort is that you have to keep momentum going.

That’s the challenge before Sweet Home’s residents and business owners now as we start trying to implement ideas and changes suggested in the two meetings that have been held on revitalizing the business district.

There are many questions and issues that will have to be addressed, questions such as what part of the city we want to revitalize, what we mean by “revitalize,” who’s going to ramrod the effort to revitalize, where the funding for revitalization is going to come from, etc.

The good news, as we’ve stated before in these columns, is that the meetings with facilitator John Morgan over the last month produced a great amount of interest and energy, which is being channeled into several committees staffed by interested participants from those meetings.

The Steering Committee was the first to meet, last week, and other committees will get rolling soon. City officials are organizing the meetings to start things off, after which it’s hoped each committee will develop some leadership and be able to function on its own, interdependently with the others.

The role of the Steering Committee is not necessarily to lead the process, but more to coordinate it. Its job is to keep the momentum going, to keep the process moving.

Thus, Steering Committee members plan to attend other committee meetings so that they can report back to the Steering Committee about what’s happening in the Planning, Finance and Program and Marketing committees, and also to help keep the whole process coordinated.

It’s encouraging to us to look down the lists of people who have indicated they are interested in serving on these committees because each list includes intelligent, experienced participants who could make a difference.

One other positive is the Sweet Home Economic Development Group Board of Directors’ decision to take a role, possibly serving as an umbrella organization for the revitalization effort – which many of us presumed would happen since revitalization could contribute very directly to one of the main reasons for SHEDG’s existence: improving the economy in Sweet Home.

Right now, SHEDG’s attention is focused heavily on finding a permanent location for the Oregon Jamboree, which was established 16 years ago to raise funds for economic development. The Jamboree’s growth into a popular and profitable enterprise makes it imperative that SHEDG keep this a priority. It may cause some disruption and inconvenience for local residents, but the payoff will be funding for a stronger local economy.

We can predict that because when the business district in Sweet Home becomes healthier and more attractive, investors will be much more inclined to follow. Hopefully, that investment will include industries that want to cash in on the core population in Sweet Home that knows how to work hard and can produce for an employer.

The pieces of the puzzle are floating around out there. Now we have to put them together. We need to be patient because this isn’t going to happen right away. But we have plenty of energy and intelligence and experience that can be applied to this puzzle.

It may take years, but we can meet this challenge. We have to.