SHARE plan takes shape at meeting

Scott Swanson

Of The New Era

The fruits of years of volunteer effort that has gone into Oregon Jamboree began to take shape Wednesday as members of Sweet Home Economic Development Group (SHEDG) and Sweet Home Active Revitalization Effort (SHARE) met to discuss strategic goals for revitalizing Sweet Home’s downtown.

Chief among those goals, participants at the meeting agreed, is to hire a full-time specialist before next summer to act as point person for the downtown revitalization effort.

Some 30 people attended a meeting in the Police Services Building community room in which facilitator John Morgan of Keizer, who has assisted with the SHARE effort since the initial public workshops held last spring, listed priorities for SHARE and reviewed its mission and the roles of the various committees.

SHEDG President Ron Moore, who chairs the SHARE Steering Committee, said his group has been working “diligently” to put together a strategic plan for addressing the needs of the city, specifically in the downtown area. The committee met for a full day in August and twice again, in October and early November, to identify priorities that it and the other SHARE committees should work on in the coming year.

The Steering Committee has eight goals and the participants at Wednesday’s meeting identified one more: improved communication among the committees, which, as several people testified, has been lacking during the process of organizing SHARE.

“There may be some things we don’t have in here tonight that should be,” Moore told the crowd as he introduced the strategic plan. “That’s part of strategic planning – input, changes.”

The eight priorities suggested by the Steering Committee were:

– Recruit and hire a professional to lead and coordinate the revitalization effort. SHEDG and the city will work on an agreement to share the cost of hiring this individual, whose job description will be developed over the next couple of months. The goal is to hire the economic development director by next May.

– Help the Chamber of Commerce to develop the organizational structure, resources and leadership it needs to enable it to grow and provide the programs and services local businesses need.

– Produce a business development and recruitment seminar by next May with help from Linn-Benton Community College.

“This will be an opportunity for everybody in the community to network and learn something,” Morgan said.

– Acquire property to create a hub or anchor building that would house chamber and SHEDG offices and other businesses that would stimulate use by the public. Moore announced Wednesday that he had signed a purchase agreement earlier in the day, on behalf of SHEDG, for the house located at 1525 Main St., between the chamber office and Speedee Mart.

– Review city codes and procedures to determine what changes should be made to foster and encourage economic development in Sweet Home. The Planning Committee was given this task with a deadline of June 2009.

– Develop a budget for SHARE, designed to accomplish its strategic goals.

– Develop sources of potential funding to support SHARE’s economic development efforts.

– Perform a feasibility study by February into the feasibility and desirability of establishing an urban renewal district as a tool to spur economic development in Sweet Home. If feasible, a secondary goal is to adopt an urban renewal plan by August. The City Council would ultimately have to make the decision on whether to pursue a district.

Morgan said the strategic plan’s intent is “to give a framework for discussion that the whole community can understand. It really gives guidance to you.”

He said the plan needs to be “useful,” not “a large document gathering dust on a shelf.

“The intent is to be inspirational, to hold people accountable,” he said.

Morgan and Moore explained the role that SHARE is playing under the umbrella of SHEDG. They likened its position to the Oregon Jamboree, which is directed by Peter LaPonte under the SHEDG board, saying that SHARE will become the other arm of SHEDG’s enterprise in the community, with the committees and the new paid staff person making decisions and following through with goals it has established.

Moore and meeting participants discussed some goals for the community. Moore acknowledged that Karen Owen, the economic development director who worked for SHEDG for five years, ending in May 2006, focused too heavily on recruiting businesses from out of state. He and others in the meeting said the focus needs to be on developing a downtown core area that meets residents’ needs and also draws tourists.

“We’re not going to get a huge industry in town and I don’t know if we want it,” Moore said. “If you get large industry you lose that homey feel. We need to try to concentrate on that.”

He said the Jamboree contributes to that ambience and he hopes to develop other events in the future to bring visitors to the area.

“Tourism is a big piece but it’s not the only piece,” he said, responding to concerns voiced by audience members about creating a business district that would meet local residents’ needs.

Morgan said that having a plan and a strong organization will work in Sweet Home’s favor when it seeks grants to do local improvement projects.

“Foundations look for communities that have their act together,” he said, emphasizing the importance of the chamber, SHEDG and the city working closely together on any improvement projects.

“We’ve got a structure now where we have more communication than we’ve had for years,” noted Bill Nyara, a member of two SHARE committees.

Morgan also reviewed the roles of the various committees within SHARE.

– The Finance Committee will work to research and identify funding sources to implement the goals in the strategic plan and the projects each committee is working on. It does not make decisions as to where money is spent; it simply finds funds necessary to successfully achieve SHARE’s goals.

– The Planning Committee identifies programs and processes that will facilitate longer-term goals. Its members will be key players in any master planning for the downtown area.

– The Programming and Marketing Committee will use marketing tools and strategies, such as Shop Local campaigns, street banners, holiday decorations, and celebrations to boost community spirit and implement citywide programs. The committee is also inventorying existing businesses in the city. The committee is also responsible for developing a symbiotic relationship with the chamber and for the development of a SHARE Web site.

– The Steering Committee serves as a guide to the subcommittees and acts as a board of directors. It is also responsible for developing and implementing the strategic plan, charters for the various committees, and coordinating SHARE’s efforts and its interaction with SHEDG, the city and other groups involved in the community.

Craig Dawson, a vice-chair of the SHARE Planning Committee, said he and some other committee members have been frustrated by “redundancy” and lack of organizational communication.

Moore acknowledged that there have been some communication problems, which have recently come to the attention of the Steering Committee, and he and Morgan both urged participants to be patient.

“It takes time to be successful,” Moore said, noting that the Oregon Jamboree has been operating for 16 years, but only recently really began to run smoothly and become the success it has been of late. He reminded participants that SHARE has been in existence for less than a year.

“It takes patience to let something happen,” he said. “Unfortunately there are some people who don’t have the patience for that. Hopefully some of them will come back when they see something happening.”

He said that he hopes to have committee minutes and SHARE information available on line within the next year.

“We’re just getting this effort organized,” he said.