The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

By Sean C. Morgan
Of The New Era 

SHEDG reports loss for 2015, expects more red ink for this year


December 13, 2016

The Sweet Home Economic Development Group recently filed its 2015 Form 990 with the IRS, reporting gross receipts of $2.6 million and a net overall loss of $264,000.

Like most organizations exempt from income tax under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code – nonprofits – SHEDG is required to file an annual Form 990 information form reporting gross receipts, total assets and other financial information.

The vast majority of SHEDG revenues and expenses are related to the Oregon Jamboree. The organization typically files for an extension and files in November for the previous year.

SHEDG President Rachel Kittson-MaQatish said SHEDG plans to file the 2016 Form 990 on time, April 15.

The loss in 2015 is shown as SHEDG’s net assets, calculated as assets minus liabilities. Net assets decreased from $367,000 in 2014 to $43,000 last year.

SHEDG raised $ 186,000 from fund-raising efforts, interest and contributions. Of that, $168,000 was from fund-raising projects, primarily the Oregon Jamboree. The figure does not reflect the cost of labor associated with the Jamboree. SHEDG’s total labor cost, which in addition to Jamboree functions also includes accounting and office work, was a total of $299,000 not counting benefits and is reflected in the overall totals in SHEDG’s Form 990.

The Oregon Jamboree is a three-day camping and country music festival established, owned and operated by SHEDG as a means to fund economic development projects. It celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

SHEDG had $900,000 in total assets and $858,000 in total liabilities in 2015.The majority of net liabilities is in deferred revenue, which primarily consists of ticket sales for the following year.

“The assets of SHEDG have been on a decline for several years, due to supporting the Oregon Jamboree,” Kittson-MaQatish said. “The music industry has changed in recent years, specifically the festival industry. For the Oregon Jamboree the competition has been fierce and the cost of talent has increased. All of this has impacted the Oregon Jamboree and has caused SHEDG to focus more exclusively on the Oregon Jamboree, focusing on the SHEDG organization as a whole and on the festival industry at large.

“In the past, before the competition increased and the festival industry changed, I imagine it was likely much easier to sit on the SHEDG board. The event was profitable, money came in and decisions were about where the money would be spent, and conversations were more about economic development to the community directly, not indirectly. We, as a board, hope to get back to that place.”

In the meantime, the board continues to see value to the Sweet Home community in continuing to operate the Oregon Jamboree.

As a board, we see the value of continuing this event due to the size of the impact on this community,” Kittson-MaQatish said. “We are celebrating the 25th year of the Oregon Jamboree this year. When this event was started, it was by an enterprising group that made some super-coincidental connections and by people that took a lot of risk, personal work and time to get this event going. This event was inspired out of desperation to bring people to town, when (declines in) our timber industry threatened to turn us into a ghost town.

“We as a board do not take our time holding that torch lightly. Those pioneers, visionaries and leaders saw the risk, the hard work, and the sacrifice worth putting on this event to bring people to town.

“If all we do as a group is bring the crowd to town, and provide the business owners the opportunity to tap into that market, pump money into our school district for use of their field, and their buses, offer our youth the opportunity to earn money for their sports teams, allow Rotary to flip burgers for scholarships, then we feel as (though) we are accomplishing the goals set out by our founders.”

Many festivals and events set a goal of simply breaking even, Kittson-MaQatish said. They see the value in bringing people to the community.

“The (Oregon Jamboree) has, in the past, been a profit center for SHEDG,” she said. “With the change of the industry and the rise in music festivals, SHEDG is having to better understand our role in the music industry. We appreciate the value of bringing people to town and strengthening their partnerships within and outside the community, and we are utilizing our resources to push forward to a sustaining and successful future, that once again translates into funds that benefit our community directly.”

Going forward, the Jamboree will likely see a loss in 2016 as well, said Festival Director Robert Shamek.

The loss of Merle Haggard, who died in the spring, impacted the Jamboree’s marketing campaign as Shamek had to spend time finding a replacement after industry-wide routing and booking for the summer had largely been completed, Kittson-MaQatish said.

“It was no easy task. The cuts that Robert made in the budget earlier in the year, and the willingness of our partners to pull together, were extremely beneficial to our event. Due to the late purchase of talent for the third act and the late marketing, our numbers were affected.”

Shamek acted fast in the wake of Haggard’s passing, Kittson-MaQatish said. He announced two 2017 headliners, Little Big Town and Jason Aldean, during the 2016 event and last month announced Kenny Rogers’ farewell tour.

SHEDG has been taking steps to improve its position, Kittson-MaQatish said, noting that new Festival Director Shamek has a personal stake in and a passion for the Sweet Home community.

“First course of business for our festival director was cutting back the budget, trimming where possible, without affecting the attendance numbers, or the experience of the patrons,” Kittson-MaQatish said. “He asked many of our partners to tighten their belts and they did.”

Board members Diane Gerson and Jo Ann McQueary have drafted new internal policies and procedures, Kittson-MaQatish said. “Heather Search has created a very active, strong, and helpful financial committee. Heather has improved board function, understanding and decision making capacity.”

Kittson-MaQatish and Shamek have made efforts to better understand the modern festival industry.

They’ve reached out to officials from the Willamette Country Music Festival, spending time asking questions and getting to know the nearby event, which is held in Brownsville in August.

Both also attended a talent-buying conference in Nashville, Tenn., this year – Kittson-MaQatish paid her own way.

While the Jamboree has been a key focus for SHEDG, it is continuing its efforts in other areas, and Kittson-MaQatish was front and center leading the property committee investigating possible uses for the former Knife River quarry property on the north edge of Sweet Home, along the banks of the South Santiam River west and north of Clark Mill Road.

SHEDG hopes to develop the property as a venue for the Jamboree, but it is partnering with the city to take it further.

“We hired an environmental attorney, we spent money towards a prospective purchaser agreement with DEQ, and my team devoted countless hours at researching that property, talking to the county and the community about that property,” Kittson-MaQatish said. “I am pleased that the city has moved to a position of seeing the value of that property and partnering with SHEDG on the use of that property.

“SHEDG did not invest our time and our efforts in review of that property for the sole benefit of SHEDG, and have always been dedicated to furthering the use of that property for the benefit of the community at large. In the future we do want to use that property for events for the community, with SHEDG managing that property. However, we have always known that the work we were doing was for the betterment of our entire community.”

This is an area where SHEDG has continued to focus on its mission, “to effectively lead efforts to enhance and promote thriving, diverse economic development in the Sweet Home community.”

“I can see how we, as a group, led that effort for the city,” Kittson-MaQatish said in a lengthy email reponse to questions from The New Era.

“Well, actually, I would say it was the hard work of the county on that property, and Rick Partipillo (director of Linn County Environmental Health), and then we stepped up and followed suit and invested our time and resources.”

Kittson-MaQatish praised the “stellar people,” the board members she has “the privilege of working with.” They are involved in work throughout the community.

“I sit in the wake of Wendi Melcher and Heather Search and all they do for the Boys and Girls Club, SHARC, the Booster Club and their many many more activities and they, as individuals are constantly leading this community,” Kittson-MaQatish said. “Rob Mullins constantly works for economic development in this region as he heads up economic development for Samaritan Health Services.

“Business owners like Michael Hall and Jared Cornell support and lead our business community and inspire and touch the lives of individual citizens. Joe Graybill and Diane Gerson spend countless hours representing the citizens of Sweet Home, in Diane’s elected capacity (as city councilor), and Joe in his professional capacity and countless hours after work.

“Ron Moore’s active involvement in our youth sports, the Boys and Girls Club and our community at large, combined with his knowledge of the event and the SHEDG organization is invaluable.

“Each of these individuals isdynamic in their own right, and have long been helping this community.

“Sitting at the same table with them, and harnessing their potential together as a group, has provided me a great opportunity to grow, and really they lead me and improve me, more than I lead them. We are a very lucky community to have such dynamic hardworking dedicated team volunteering their time for the benefit of this community.

“We as a community can choose to be critical when times are tough, competition is fierce, and the industry is changing, or we can choose to come alongside and support those that volunteer their time to sit in the seats that do the heavy lifting and the decision making.

“No one at that table is there for their personal benefit. They fill those seats when times are lean, not for personal gain. They sit there because they love this community and will sacrifice time with their family, sacrifice time making their own money, and sacrifice time enjoying the fruits of their own labor, for the benefit of town and a community they love.

“I would encourage our community to thank them for the work they are doing on their behalf and that our community with new vigor would rally behind the Oregon Jamboree, and SHEDG and celebrate the vision that our founders so bravely put forward 25 years ago.”

“The 25th anniversary is going to be an amazing event. If you haven’t bought your tickets yet, or haven’t purchased your loved one’s gift, now is the perfect time. The people that give to this event do so for the betterment of the community, they do so for no personal gain, the board members receive no compensation for the time they devote to this endeavor.

“The Oregon Jamboree is a rare event – put on by a whole lot of hardworking volunteers, invested community partners, founded by visionaries, and nestled in our quaint town on a beautiful green-grass field, and orchestrated by a well-organized team. You will not find a non-profit music festival of its size that has been around giving back to its community for 25 years.”

“Twenty-five years ago, the Oregon Jamboree was started by an enterprising group of individuals, she said. “Since that time the industry has changed around the Oregon Jamboree. The cost of talent has skyrocketed, musicians are now getting a much greater share of their revenue from festivals, competition has become fierce and big players are involved in the festival industry. For awhile, or for too long, SHEDG has just looked at how we did things in the past, or what we have always been, without looking out at the industry in which we operate. We are taking a bigger view at how we fit into the industry and how we can stay competitive.”


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