Five candidates – 3 new – elected to SHEDG board

Sean C. Morgan

The Sweet Home Economic Development Group cast a unanimous ballot for five candidates to fill five openings on its Board of Directors during its annual meeting on March 16.

Continuing as directors are Kevin Strong, president of the board, and Elmer Riemer. Joining them are Mike J. Adams, city Public Works Director; Michelle Swett of Linn-Co Federal Credit Union; and Jason Yutzie, director of the Boys and Girls Club of the Greater Santiam.

Leaving the board are Ron Moore and Sarah Shamek. The SHEDG Board added a fifth position, bringing the total to 11 members, at its meeting in February.

Four of the new board members will serve four-year terms, while Adams received a two-year term, the remainder of Shamek’s term of office, in a drawing.

Adams said he wanted to be “part of the solution,” so he submitted his name for consideration.

Riemer, who has served on the board and Jamboree management team since 2003, said he has lived in Sweet Home since 1963.

It’s his hometown, and as part of the community, he started volunteering with the Oregon Jamboree around 1996 after he retired. His wife, Joan Riemer, has volunteered since the festival started, in 1992.

“I just love working for Sweet Home,” he said.

Sweet Home is a great community with potential, said Strong, who is business manager for School District 55. “SHEDG gives me a chance to see that potential is realized for Sweet Home.”

Yutzie was unable to attend the annual meeting, but sent a letter.

He said he has been considering ways to get more involved in the Sweet Home community for the past nine months.

Sweet Home has so much potential with tourism, recreation and as a place to do business, he said. He has been a volunteer at the Jamboree for four years and is impressed with the organization and the consistency throughout the entire organization.

Swett said she wanted to “do something for the community. I thought this would be a good fit.”

Swett has been a Jamboree volunteer for 11 years and is the accounting supervisor.

Moore departs the board after 11 years. He served as president for nine years.

“The enjoyment’s seeing the growth and success of the Jamboree and starting programs that help the economic growth and enhancing the community in ways we can be proud of,” he said. “I think that sometimes fresh ideas are helpful (on any board).”

After a decade, it seems like a good idea to step away and see what new board members will come up with, he said.

He continues to serve as president of the Boys and Girls Club of the Greater Santiam.

“As an organization, we’ve accomplished a lot over the past 19 years,” Strong said. “And we’re looking to continue to help promote economic development in Sweet Home. We’ve got a great staff, great volunteer base and great community. I’m looking forward to seeing what they can achieve together.”

Among SHEDG’s accomplishments, Strong said, Sweet Home has hosted some of the biggest names in entertainment and hosted almost a half million country music fans based on daily attendance figures.

SHEDG has helped fund projects, including refurbishing the Weddle Bridge, new community tennis courts, a new trail at Foster Lake, the Main Street median project and restroom improvements at Shea point.

Youth groups and civic groups have had an opportunity to raise funds in a fun atmosphere, Strong said. The Rotary Club, of which he is a member, has served at least 30,000 hamburger and curly fry baskets to raise money for scholarships.

SHEDG has funded the Sweet Home Active Revitalization Effort and its projects, including façade improvements, murals, banners, events and marketing in Sweet Home.

It also has contributed more than $170,000 to the Sweet Home Community Foundation, and it has hired economic development staff to help assist local businesses as they grow, he said.

During the annual meeting, Strong presented the President’s Award to board member Heather Johnson, who runs two businesses while serving on the SHEDG Board of Directors.

Jamboree Festival Director Erin Regrutto provided an update on the Jamboree, announcing that ticket sales are up this year, despite current economic conditions.

She described efforts to improve marketing, “developing a Jamboree community.”

The festival’s new Web site is the cornerstone of its marketing, she said. The Jamboree organization wants fans to think about the festival all year long.

“What we want to do is develop a culture where the Jamboree is part of their lifestyles,” Regrutto said. In combination with the Web site, the Jamboree is using the Internet social media extensively, including Facebook, Twitter and more.

“When we became more active on Facebook, our ticket sales went up almost immediately,” Regrutto said. The festival has about 3,000 people following it on Facebook, and she hopes to grow that number to 15,000 or even 20,000.

At the same time, the Jamboree has started a new concert series outside of Sweet Home, she said. (See above). The Jamboree also is working to add value to the festival itself, including the addition of a second stage in Sankey Park, with shows in between the main stage shows. A fourth video screen will be added to the Sankey Park area this year, Regrutto said, and the new attractions will be added there for children and adults.

She is already thinking about the 2012 Jamboree, she said. That will be the Jamboree’s 20th anniversary, “and yes, we are going to celebrate our 20th anniversary.”

The Jamboree faces competition nearby, the Willamette Country Music Festival outside Brownsville, Regrutto said. That should motivate volunteers and event staff to make the Jamboree even better.

SHEDG Economic Development Director Brian Hoffman provided an update on economic development activities at the board meeting, and presented a proposal to begin a business loan program.

“It would primarily be parallel to the Commercial Exterior Improvement Program,” he said. Once designed, the program would need a pilot project to work out the details and set up the program.

He also outlined plans to promote business retention and expansion, taking a one-on-one approach or a “one-on-a-few” approach rather than using traditional classrooms with marketing experts.

Marketing is key to business growth, Hoffman said, and he is hoping to help businesses with what they need, finding out from them what they need and working from there to design the program.

For example, Hoffman said, SHEDG could provide assistance with merchandising, product placement. Box stores carefully place merchandise to help achieve higher sales, and education might help local retailers.

To begin these programs, the community needs businesses willing to participate, he said. It also needs strong local partnerships, especially among economic development organizations, and expansion of regional partnerships.

Those are the foundations for economic development, he said, and he believes Sweet Home has come a long way in all those areas.

This year, he would like to identify a core group of businesses to put through the paces of the programs and show the value the programs add.

With the election complete, SHEDG board members are Riemer, Strong, Tom Albert, Kellie Kem, Johnson, Carol Cromwell, Swett, Brad Newport, John Wittwer, Adams and Yutzie.