Editorial: Good news from Lebanon

Lebanon rejoiced last week with the the groundbreaking for the construction of the $1.4 million-square-foot Lowe’s distribution center in Lebanon.

This is good news for all of us, and it’s a positive lesson in how communities like ours can get ahead in today’s world.

The giant facility is expected to create some 450 jobs, most in the first two years, as it moves some 32,000 items per day to 75 Lowe’s home improvement centers throughout the Northwest.

Lebanon attracted Lowe’s with incentives similar to those offered by other communities that wanted the center. What Lebanon did was pave the way ? literally ? by pushing aggressively for the expansion of Highway 34. City officials, particularly the former and current mayors, went every second mile necessary in meeting with state officials to make sure things fell into place so Lebanon could make Lowe’s an offer it couldn’t refuse.

Some neighbors of the planned facility on Gore Drive have raised questions about drainage on the property and the fact that Lebanon city officials have gone so aggressively after landing the Lowe’s facility.

There’s no question that such concerns need to weighed and allayed in a project like this. Lebanon has a number of industrial properties ? former mill sites ? that it reportedly could not offer to Lowe’s because of cleanup issues. It is the city’s job to make sure such problems don’t get a rerun in this use of the land in question.

The really good news is that this Lowe’s project demonstrates for all of us is that we have something attractive to offer here on the east side of the Willamette Valley. Local communities, nearly ruined by the falloff of the logging industry, haven’t thrown in the towel. But what Lebanon demonstrates is that we need to get even more aggressive in figuring out how to refocus our energy and imagination to create new opportunities to provide jobs.

Sweet Home certainly hasn’t given up. The proposed Santiam Commons project and the planned Santiam Village retail shopping center are evidence that creative things are happening here that could be a big asset to the community. The developers of the Santiam Village met with local community leaders a couple of weeks ago to go over their plans for the property across Highway 20 from the former Cedar Shack.

The fact that Salem was chosen over Sweet Home as the site for the new state police academy was disappointing, but certainly not the end of Sweet Home’s ability to reinvent itself. In fact, that backstab should be incentive to turn up the energy.

Lowe’s arrival is an encouragement not only in that it will create some 300 jobs to build the facility, but that more jobs will be created when it is up and running in about two years.

But we all need to be encouraged by the example Lebanon has set in what can be done when local residents and officials decided that it was time to stop bemoaning the sudden loss of the riches of the forest and move ahead.