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City economic analysis gives council information, guidance for planning

 

March 21, 2017



At its next meeting, the City Council will consider a draft Economic Opportunities Analysis which shows that Sweet Home has a sufficient supply of land for employment use during the next 20 years.

The meeting will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 28, in the City Council chambers.

The council received a draft copy of an Economic Opportunities Analysis during its regular meeting March 14 to review prior to voting whether to adopt it during its next regular meeting March 28.

The draft EOA was prepared by ECONorthwest, a consulting firm with branches in Eugene and Portland that specializes in economics, finance, and planning. ECONorthwest also created the city’s previous EOA in 2001.

Economic trends and state policies have changed since 2001, said Public Works Director Mike Adams, who has been overseeing the creation of the EOA in the absence of a city planning director.

From 2008 to 2012, a global financial crisis had ripple effects across the nation, including Ore-gon. The 2001 EOA did not take into account higher-than-normal unemployment, low levels of bank lending and a reduction in economic growth during the Great Recession.

In 2005 the state Land Conservation and Development Commission adopted substantial changes to the administrative rules for planning required of cities and other local governments. In the area of diversification and improvement of the economy, the state asks communities to inventory commercial and industrial lands, project future needs for such lands, and plan and zone enough land to meet those needs.

Adams said Sweet Home’s EOA update will implement that requirement. It will ensure that Sweet Home’s Comprehensive Plan reflects current community conditions and values, and it ensures that the city is in compliance with state planning laws and regulations.

The primary goals of the EOA are to project the amount of land needed to accommodate the future employment growth within the Sweet Home urban growth boundary from 2017 to 2037, to evaluate the existing employment land supply, provide a factual basis to update the city’s economic development policies in the Comprehensive plan and fulfill state planning requirements for a 20-year supply of employment land.

A project advisory committee helped develop the EOA. Members included Chamber of Commerce President Bill Matthews, ED Moore of the Department of Land Conservation and Development, Planning Commissioner Edie Wilcox, Mayor Greg Mahler, Jared Cornell of the Sweet Home Economic Development Group, city staff engineer Joe Graybill and Jo Ann McQueary of Rural Linn Economic Development.

The project was partially funded through a $30,000 grant from the DLCD.

According to the report, Sweet Home has 473 acres of unconstrained buildable land, with 442 acres in commercial zones and 32 acres in industrial.

Sweet Home’s employment base was 2,356 employees in 2017, representing a 20-percent decrease since 1997. The EOA forecasts an increase of 584 jobs by 2037, with 160 in industrial designations, 291 in office and commercial services, 94 in retail and 39 in government.

The EOA predicts it will require the use of 18 acres of industrial land, 6 acres of retail commercial land and 18 acres of land for office and commercial services.

Based on Sweet Home’s attributes, including the existing employment base, water and wastewater utilities, surrounding forest areas, access to workers from the mid-Willamette Valley, a high quality of life and relatively affordable housing, the EOA identifies potential growth areas for Sweet Home in manufacturing primary and secondary wood products, such as engineered wood products, furniture manufacturing, prefabricated wood buildings and other products. It also lists specialty food and beverage manufacturing, such as wineries, beer brewing, fruit and vegetable projects as well as renewable alternative energy products, like biomass.

Sweet Home’s access to Highway 20 may make it attractive for small distribution for locally produced products, such as food and beverages.

Sweet Home may attract professional and business services that prefer a smaller city like Sweet Home. They could include software development, technical services, medical services and other services. Its growing population of those near or in retirement may create demand for services for seniors and medical services.

Growth in tourism will drive demand for restaurants, a hotel and a high-quality RV park, and population growth will drive demand for retail, medical restaurant, education and government services.

The EOA recommends that the council and Planning Commission review the policies in the Sweet Home Economic Development Strategy, make necessary revisions to the policies and then adopt goals, objectives and strategies into the economy element of the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

In addition to ensuring a sufficient supply of land to support employment growth, the EOA recommends that the city support economic development through planning and development of infrastructure, including roads, water, sewer and storm water systems. It also recommends aligning its Capital Improvements Plan with the goals.

Retention and expansion of existing business is one of the city’s key opportunities for economic growth, according to the EOA, and the city can support businesses by continuing to provide staff to help businesses through the development process and revising policies that make business growth more difficult.

The EOA recommends that the city support development and redevelopment of its recreation commercial area, 333 acres along the South Santiam River on the north side of Sweet Home. The allowed uses are generally related to tourism, with some limited commercial and residential use. The current zoning is a barrier to development of the land in the zone.

The city should help develop leaders and champions for economic development in Sweet Home, according to the EOA. Meeting the city’s economic development goal will require leadership from city officials and champions to produce action within the community.

Those leaders and champions should begin by implementing the city’s economic development strategy and working with regional partners on other economic development projects, coordinating efforts with organizations like Rural Linn Economic Development, the Sweet Home Economic Development Group, the Sweet Home Chamber of Commerce, Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments, Business Oregon and federal agencies to develop a broad economic development strategy for Sweet Home, with a city staff member assigned to play a leadership role in in an econmic development committee.

The 114-page draft EOA may be viewed as part of the City Council’s information packet at http://www.sweet-home.or.us/DocumentCenter/View/3953.

For more information, contact the city manager’s office at (541) 367-8969.