Time to keep talking – and start doing

It’s crunch time for revitalization in Sweet Home.

We’ve got momentum, we’ve got ideas and there’s even some indication that people are willing to put out some money to make something happen.

The challenge now is to do exactly that – make it happen.

The enthusiasm for changing things, making Sweet Home a more attractive stopping spot for travelers and tourists, filling up the vacant storefronts, strengthening the economic pulse of the community, was evident Thursday night by the fact that at least as many people showed up for the second meeting with facilitator John Morgan as did March 4.

Some of those who were at the first meeting didn’t return, but there were new faces to replace them.

When you get 126 people in a room, brainstorming, you get a lot of ideas.

But fervor and ideas will only take us so far. Now we have to come up with a plan.

We say “we” because this has to be a community effort.

Morgan spoke of “catalytic leadership,” a term coined by the late University of Oregon professor Jeff Luke, who got interested in why some communities are able to solve difficult problems while others cannot. Luke’s research led him to the conclusion that much of the success came from a style of leadership that places the good of the community and the accomplishment of an agreed-upon outcome over personal gain or recognition.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that that’s the kind of leadership we need now in Sweet Home – leadership based on vision, building partnerships, collaboration and passion.

This community has made this happen before, with lesser projects that we’ve cited in previous discussions of revitalizing the business district. The foremost examples – the Community Center (where last Thursday’s meeting was held) and the Oregon Jamboree – both required exactly catalytic leadership, even if they didn’t call it that.

But this is a bigger challenge than just putting up a building or bringing a bunch of country stars to town and figuring out how to pull all the pieces together to create a profitable enterprise.

There are many, many problems to be solved and many people will be involved in this – as willing participants or as unwilling or passive spectators.

What is going to happen next is people who have signed up to be on various committees to address some of the challenges before us will need to sift through the ideas generated in the two recent meetings and figure out how to implement them. We need some clear, realistic goals.

We need a plan.

Problems must be identified before they can be solved. Not everyone is going to agree on what the problems are and there will almost certainly be some disagreement on solutions.

That’s where that catalytic leadership –  the ability to use people’s strengths in a positive way and to get people, particularly strong-minded people, to work together toward a common goal – is necessary.

It’s clear that the Sweet Home Economic Development Group will need to be an important part of this process. SHEDG was created to improve the economy here in Sweet Home. It was created to raise funds, the kind of funds that will be necessary to make the changes Sweet Home needs to get out of the sinkhole it’s been in for a couple of decades.

SHEDG can provide leadership in this enterprise and we’re happy to see City Manager Craig Martin, who has taken the lead in supporting this revitalization movement, now sitting on the SHEDG board. Martin doesn’t want to drive revitalization from City Hall and neither do we. But his expertise in planning and government will be vital as this process moves forward.

A lot of other people around town have expertise too. Some are retirees, some are people who work outside of town, some are involved in local businesses or in the school district or City Hall.

Sweet Home needs them to step up in a proactive way, to work together to figure out what has to happen to fill the empty storefronts, to make the town more visually attractive to visitors, to give Sweet Home a better image and a healthier economy.

Local businesswoman Beth Lambert noted Thursday how there have been other attempts at revitalization – this is the third since she arrived in Sweet Home eight years ago. The others failed.

Well, we’ve got 125 people who want something to happen and probably a lot more who didn’t make it Thursday night.

This time, let’s make it happen.