Put best face forward for city
August 11, 2021
Sweet Home has always been a community that responds when there’s a crisis, a need.
We recall recent instances.
- We needed a community center, so the citizens built one.
- We needed an all-weather athletic field, so the citizens built one.
- A local disabled man’s home was destroyed by a falling tree during a storm. Local citizens engineered an effort to build him a new one.
- Police or firefighters need funding. Citizens vote to pass levies or bonds to keep them afloat.
- Our junior high school is … extremely well-worn. Citizens approve bond money to cash in on a golden opportunity to get matching state funds to build what effectively is a new school facility.
That’s the kind of community Sweet Home is. We’re not exaggerating. This isn’t just happy spin.
So now we have an opportunity again: to “recruit” a firm that, reportedly, could provide 100-plus jobs in our community. Will that revenue help solidify things, economically, in Sweet Home? You bet it would.
Right now, in the post-COVID world in which employers are scrambling to fill vacancies, it might be easy to discount the importance of this. Our memory of what life’s been like back in the days when economic growth in Sweet Home has been stagnant or non-existent may be hazy.
But this is “a big deal,” as our city manager rightly states in our story on page 1. As a community, we would be foolish to let this one slide by. Whatever Sweet Home might be, we don’t think our community is naive.
So what do we need to do? Simply, we want to put on our best face, do the best we can to impress these people. We need to spruce up – not just the downtown, but any public eyesore.
We recall the last time Sweet Home had a similar opportunity, in that case to gain help with fixing up the downtown, doing that facelift. That was back in 2008, when representatives of the Oregon Cascade West Council of Governments and the Oregon Downtown Association came to town on a grimy February day, looked around, and described the downtown appearance as “worn, blighted, cheap and tacky,” with an “unhealthy” business district. They said they thought Sweet Home lacked momentum, leadership, vision, focus and the capacity to do what is needed downtown.
They did say that they thought the city has a lot of potential and that its problems are not unsolvable.
Well, a lot has happened since then. Three community meetings, each numbering more than 100 participants and growing – not diminishing – in size, were called in response to that experience. The result of those meetings, an ad hoc group of local residents and officials called SHARE, met regularly from 2008 until last year to formulate ways to address the problems the naysayers were supposed to solve.
Through the depths of the Great Recession, that group worked in conjunction with SHEDG on multiple fronts to move Sweet Home’s economy forward, or to lay the groundwork for such: hiring the city’s first-ever economic development director, performing a commercial property inventory, commissioning a downtown retail market analysis, as well as funding and instigating window enhancement, murals and downtown holiday decoration projects, and providing grants to the Farmers Market.
Even when times are tough, Sweet Home residents can get things done.
SHARE instigated what has developed into the city’s Commercial Exterior Improvement Program, which continues to provide grant money to improve downtown commercial structures whose owners want to give their buildings a facelift.
We responded then as a community and we can respond again.
Sweet Home has, arguably, improved its public appearance dramatically in the last few years, with widespread upgrades of formerly dilapidated residential structures. Various property owners have purchased and renovated downtown buildings, which now contain businesses, the most recent to be a medical clinic (see page 1).
Now it’s time to polish things up, as much as possible. If we truly want economic growth in Sweet Home, this is a golden opportunity to put our best face forward and show these people what kind of community we really are.
We don’t have dirty snow to deal with this time.