Community Development vs. Economic Development

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Spending an additional $250,000 for economic/business development with additional staffing and outside services is not a good use of limited city resources. Why is the city considering adding economic development when it is not fulfilling its existing obligations as well as it can? Why is the city considering adding economic development when its community development efforts have been very successful? Improving the quality of life with community amenities like recreation opportunities, cultural opportunities, great schools, excellent city service and a first-rate infrastructure is community development which drives economic development. It does not require allocating the proposed $250,000 to an economic development effort above what is already in place.

People and business moved, expanded or stayed in Lake Oswego because they liked what the saw – a safe place to live, good infrastructure, quality schools, natural amenities, high development standards, great service by the city for approving projects that meet city standards, etc. Autodesk leaving, KinderCare and Umpqua arriving was not because of the city having an economic development effort. When the city takes care of things, it does not matter about companies moving here or leaving.

If we take care of community development quality of life (infrastructure, police, fire, parks, planning, development standards, efficient government processes, etc.) in a first-class way economic development will follow. Focus on providing great public safety, great parks, great infrastructure, high design standards, efficient and quick way through planning and building, standards as clear and objective as they can be. To meet changing need, reorganize existing departments – do not add additional people.

People already know Lake Oswego. Branding is not needed. Even when Portland starts getting better, Lake Oswego will be fine. In addition to the attractions in the city, Lake Oswego is next to a variety of great attractions – think Oregon Health Sciences University, Lewis and Clark College, Tryon Creek State Park and more).

Lake Oswego is already a great place to live, work and play. Lake Oswego is not going to have 1,000 acre landsites for commercial development.

A dozen years ago the city rented additional space for an economic development department at a time when the city owned West End Building (Yakima Building) was sitting one-third empty. Fortunately, the city decided to shut down the space and the economic development department. It was not an economic development department that brought Lake Oswego the following: Boones Ferry Road (enhancing the infrastructure), Foothills Park, Millennium Plaza, Lake View Village (retail, office and restaurants), The Windward (new housing and retail), North Anchor (new hotel and housing), West End Building sold to Yakima Products, Inc. (new jobs in the city), a new grocery in Palisades Market, Mercato Village (new housing, restaurants and retail), Ironlight building in downtown (event location, office, new restaurant), Umpqua Bank and Kinder Care moving to Kruse Way, The Springs on Kruse Way opening (housing for seniors), Dukes Public House (a new restaurant replacing a tire store), Kyra’s Bake Shop (repurposing an old building), 2nd Street townhouses, 365 opening, Laughing Planet restaurant, expansion at Mary’s Woods (housing and retail) and many more. Going forward there will be low-income housing on Boones Ferry Road and the former Marylhurst University campus. All of the private development happened without an economic development effort.

With all the other demands and requests for funds, spending additional dollars on economic development does not sense. Adding staff or contractors is a cost that keeps on taking every year in terms of escalating salary and benefits while putting $250,000 in one time community development capital expenditures is the gift that keeps on giving at minimal additional cost. Here are a few community development alternatives of how the $250,000 can be better spent…… improve existing parks, improve/repair existing pathways, repair roads, repair bridges, etc.

Success in long-term strategic competition requires getting the details right. In Lake Oswego the most effective use of the dollars is focusing on community development.

What should the city do?

  • Acknowledge nuance and trade-off in decisions. If everything is important, nothing is important.
  • Spend the proposed $250,000 improving community development
  • Reorganize within existing city resources to provide more effective service.
  • Focus on quality of life.
  • Whenever a new business opens the mayor can call and welcome them.

  • A focus on community development (what makes a place attractive to its residents) and economic development will follow.

    721 words (limit 550 words)
    Jeff Gudman
    Past Member – Lake Oswego City Council 2011 – 2018
    4088 Orchard Way

    Contact Jeff Today!

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