I didn't think this needed its own thread so I just put it in the Salem section.
She had some interesting things to say about attracting businesses and trying to get Salem on the map in Oregon.
Salem's mayor outlines her vision for city
November 27, 2007
The questions and the mayor's comments have been edited for length and clarity.
My first question is about Vision 2020. Can you explain that and what you hope to accomplish?
MAYOR JANET TAYLOR:
... We have a very vibrant urban center of our community, and the downtown is the very core of it. But within half a mile of downtown we have 33,000 employees and 21,000 residents
. So it's a much more densely active area than maybe we had really acknowledged.
What I found as I was talking to the leaders of different entities in that urban center is there are some tremendous expansion projects already going forward and many that are planned.
For instance: the hospital and their expansion under way; Willamette University with some of what they're doing. The state of Oregon is in the process of designing for two more buildings on the mall. General Growth is working on some additional amenities to that wonderful Salem Center shopping area. We have The Rivers Condominiums; we've got Boise Cascade for redevelopment; The Meridian with their $54 million development.
And nobody was talking to each other. There wasn't any coordination of: What kind of parking issues would occur? What are we going to do for trail connections, amenities along the creeks? So it became very apparent that we needed to sit down as a group and start really talking to each other and maybe forming some partnerships that would make it a better result.
So out of that came the idea for a visioning; a more concentrated visioning -- not trying to do the whole city but doing that urban center. ... We're reaching out into the community now for taking surveys and giving presentations and getting feedback.
And we'll have a wonderful forum on Dec. 5 at the conference center from 5 'til 8 (p.m.)to get even wider community input. We've already had something like 500 surveys returned to us in just a two-and-a-half week period. ...
This is all going to be pretty well tied up by April/May as to what the vision is, what our goals and the strategies to reach those goals are. ...
We'll take the low-hanging fruit first. But we're going to really work toward those goals that the community wants, because we've invested so much already down in that center area and there's more investment occurring. We want to be sure it stays as successful as possible.
... My, the excellent ideas people have about what makes a core work: rubber tire trolley circulating system so employees can get from, say, the state offices to eat lunch or go shopping or whatever they want to do; the entertainment; the restaurants. It's really been fun. The ideas have been great.
There've been a number of plans over the years, and Salem Futures, that sort of wound up on the shelf, is that correct?
Well, not really.
How do you make sure this (Vision 2020) happens?
I 'm so glad you asked that, because this Vision 2020 is not a land-use visioning.
Salem Futures was: how do you change your land use to increase your density on mixes of uses and reduce your reliance on the automobile. ... Vision 2020 is more about
: As redevelopment and investment is occurring, how do you maximize it to be the most it can be to fit what the community wants?
So it's not about zoning; we have plenty of zoning in that core area that already works. It's more about forming partnerships, about being supportive of what your neighbor's doing, and it will have results much quicker because it is not the kind of process that says that when you build or redevelop here, or add facilities, you are required by code to do such and such. It is not that type of a process.
It's: We've all agreed that these are the things we should work towards doing, we're going to help each other to make them happen, and it's what the community supports. So it's really a different process than land use.
You've talked about the need to freshen up downtown and the core as a way of helping draw businesses. Can you explain what you mean?
Well, we consistently have had comments from the type of retail and commercial that we want to attract to downtown. ... that the downtown isn't visually attractive. Now this was before we'd done some of the things we've done. ...
It was sort of unkempt; it was sort of getting shabby. There was street furniture and street items like planters that had no plants in them; in fact, weeds were growing, or they were cracked, or they had graffiti. That trash cans had broken tops on them and were askew. That it just didn't look like anybody really cared. So, "why would I want to put my business and invest the money that it takes to start a business or bring a business into town to an area where people don't seem to care?"
It became very apparent that quite often if, say, a Trader Joe's
, who I've met with a couple of times now, came through town and it didn't look very attractive, they were going to reject coming here.
And yet, everybody wants Trader Joe's
to come to Salem. So I talked to a few of the property owners and some civic leaders: What kind of support would you give to the city going forward and doing this? And I had excellent support. ... So we did go ahead and replace planters and trash receptacles. There was some concern about us doing it, and it's just turned out beautiful.
The fact that we had Kohl's come to replace Mervyns -- one of the small reasons that they made that decision is because the city was demonstrating that they cared about downtown... So it's all to attract good business; it's all to attract the types of business and restaurants that the community wants, and we have some more announcements that are going to be pretty dynamite coming very soon
What types of businesses have you been meeting with?
As I've said, I've met with Trader Joe's and they're very interested in Salem
. We've proved to them that the community has a desire to have them come. We've also proved to them that the demographics do fit their model of where to locate and be successful.
They've worked with us to really kind of identify the general area they want to be in. We've helped to make a few contacts so that they can at least get the conversation going. At this point they've been very positive about coming here.
I've also met with the lead people for Crate & Barrel and Chico's
, and I've met several times with the West Coast director of General Growth, which is the Salem Center. I've also met with companies that are interested in the Lancaster Mall area, and I don't know if they've started negotiations at all with property owners out there.
But what we're trying to do is get a good mix here. But at the same time, I don't want to ignore the fact that one of our strengths of, say, our downtown, and, frankly, Lancaster Mall and out south, is that we have unique, homegrown, boutique kinds of stores. That we don't have to just have the national retail chains here; that we can support, and do support, and very much enjoy, the boutique stores and the small niche stores that people in our community have started.
For the larger, industrial customers, what is the situation there? What's happening with the SUMCO property? What's happening with the Mill Creek Industrial Park?
The SUMCO properties, both north and south, have been purchased by local investors. Alex Rhoten is one of those investors. They're working very hard to have companies locate in those buildings.
I understand SUMCO south has been pretty well gutted so that it's very easy to redevelop for whatever company would want to locate there. I'm not sure what the situation is on the north. But they're reaching out for companies that want to be here, working closely with SEDCOR, because so much of the interest for industrial in our community comes through SEDCOR.
The Mill Creek is now called the Mill Creek Corporate Center, and that gives it a little more flexibility about what can be there. There will be an announcement shortly that one small piece that is not part of the master development is set to close sometime in January, and we'll have a development on there that will be a really good development for the community.
But the two bigger pieces -- the warehouse distribution piece, where Wal-Mart was going to be, there has been a commercial broker selected by the state of Oregon to do some very heavy marketing of that warehouse distribution piece. It's about 146 acres, and they'll be working closely with SEDCOR, who's also been marketing that piece.
The other section that is ready is about 150 acres, and the state has selected a master developer. The negotiations are just about finished on that master developer buying that 150 acres. The master developer will then go forward and put in some of the internal roads that are part of his responsibility, some of the internal water and sewer lines, and is going to build a large amount of industrial flex space even before he has tenants.
Because what so often happens is a company will say, "Salem, Oregon is a fit for me, I need a space and I need it within 30 days." Well if you have to build it, you can't get it built in 30 days, but if you have a space that is designed in a manner that it can be quickly converted to whatever their uses are -- called flex space, a very common thing to do -- you can capture them and you can have the jobs there in 30 days
. So this master developer is really sharp and he's very entrepreneurial; he understands that part of the business.
But maybe another really important piece that we should talk about is that I have now for three years in a row gone with SEDCOR to the CoreNet Global Summit. This year the summit was in Atlanta, Ga., and we just returned from that about two weeks ago. It is where you meet with site selectors ... for companies to locate branches or manufacturing plants or warehouse distribution.
We're building some wonderful relationships with site selectors. We're part of the state of Oregon delegation, which includes the Portland Development Commission, the Port of Portland. PGE has a representative there, those of us from SEDCOR. There was a representative from Medford City Council. We're building the relationships that make people comfortable to say Oregon is a place to do business, and it's a good place to locate.
We have more shovel-ready industrial property in Salem than maybe any other city in the state. Portland is just about totally out of industrial land; we've got about 1,000 acres in different parts of the city that we can put industrial uses into. ...
What's the image out there when you talk to people of Salem and the Mid-Valley?
A lot of people have been to Portland but they haven't gone further south, and we're encouraging them of course to come -- "Call me, and I'll take you around."
But those that have been here or are aware of the Mid-Willamette Valley, and Salem in particular, have a really positive image: Clean, green, friendly, good environment. They feel that we're very pro-business because of many of the things we've done in the last four or five years. It's really a positive image, very positive image.
It has been enhanced tremendously by having the Mill Creek Corporate Center property and by having commercial air service, because if you're located on the East Coast and you want to put a branch out here in Salem, you need to be able to get here easily and quickly. Because time is money when you're in business.
And what has even been more beneficial, what Delta has done for us is they started commercial freight service in October, and that's huge. ...
There are some really wonderful things happening that people don't generally know about. So we have a good image for business, and we're right on the verge here of having some wonderful family-wage jobs. It's going to be a real benefit.
What's happening with Boise Cascade?
Well that, that's been fun. That's been challenging. Everything is getting resolved, and there's just one small issue left. The buyers and Boise Cascade are very close to getting that one small issue resolved, and I am confident that that sale should close by the end of the year.
When that happens, we'll be in a position to go forward and finish the zone change so that they can go forward with their project. I believe this is the kind of group that will have enough money tied up in the property, they're going to want to go forward as quickly as possible and get that project up and running and paying back some of their private investment.
I'm very excited about it. It's going to be really very beneficial to the whole community. It's going to be a destination place, and it'll open up our riverfront even more than we have now and make it even more usable with restaurants and connections from our current riverfront park out over to Minto Park. ...
How has Keizer Station affected Salem?
Well, you know when you have a pie, and you have shoppers that are going to be eating that pie, it has an effect because there's just so much money, disposable income.
But what I think has been interesting about Keizer Station is it is much more geared to the big-box store experience. If you go and shop at Target and then you want to go to the furniture store, you get in your car and drive over to the furniture store.
What we have in Lancaster Mall and what we have in our downtown area is that shopping experience where you can walk from A to B to get everything done. So I think in the long-term picture, I don't think they're going to affect us very much.
What's happening is we're growing; the communities around us are growing; we're becoming a much easier option for shopping than trying to drive for an hour, or hour and a half, up into the Portland area, dealing with all the traffic and the parking and the people. You can find just about anything that you want here unless it's very, very specific. You can find it here in the Salem-Keizer area. So I just think we're becoming the place to shop, or the regional shopping area, instead of everybody saying, "Oh, there's nothing here. I'm going to Portland."
Are there other things you specifically wanted to touch on?
TAYLOR: Well, I guess the thing I'm really so proud of this community about is how people have -- I get a little touched, and I'm sorry -- people have really stepped up to work together and to be supportive of each other, and to be partners instead of fighting about everything.
Finding ways to compromise, finding ways to make things happen. And it's in every realm, whether it's business, the environment, social services.
Look what's happening in the social service, nonprofit part of our community -- stepping up to find foster homes and fight drug use and be supportive of our police department and passing a fire bond measure that was so important. I am so proud of this community.
SJ: What have the challenges been?
... For the city it's always revenue. The limitations on property tax increases are really very good for the property owner, but they have constricted our revenues because that increase of 3 percent doesn't keep up with inflation. It doesn't keep up with raises to our employees, the materials and supplies we have to buy.
Just think about putting overlays on roads. Asphalt went up 42 percent in one year. ...
As far as the community at large goes, the challenge there is to really go ahead and do things and still try to keep people informed and engaged so they don't feel that they've been left out of the process-- left out of a say, left out of their opinions. And that communication and getting the word out and keeping people educated about what we're doing and where we're going is really challenging.
When you think about the newspaper and CCTV and the Internet and our Web sites, you feel like you've really educated, and then something will happen and someone will say, "I didn't know that was happening."
And it's frustrating because we're trying so hard to get the word out and we don't always succeed at the level we think we are.
What's the relationship between Keizer and Salem?
Well, it's really very, very good. I enjoy (Keizer Mayor ) Lore Christopher. We've done a lot of things jointly together. ...
We try to work together, because you know what? We are neighbors, and we are joined at the hip, and we need to be supportive of each other. We have had a couple of issues come up concerning the sewer surcharge that we're now working through to be sure that we're being fair with them for whatever charges we make.