Canby Mayor Brian Hodson outlines what's coming down the road this year
The Canby Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the annual State of the City address with Mayor Brian Hodson and based on his remarks, as well as those of Canby Economic Development Director Renate Mengelberg, Canby is poised for big changes and continued growth in 2017.
"We've gotten to a point with our city staff where resources are very limited," Hodson said. "Finances are limited. Staffing is limited. Time is limited. Really, I've been trying to work with the city manager and staff to determine what the pieces are they are working on so the city council isn't coming around with new ideas every week on how to make the city better or run more efficiently when that's generally what the (city staff already is doing). But these are the pieces that stand out that city staff already is working on and we need to have conversations about those pieces."
Hodson said budget and finances, the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), insurance, labor expenses, revenue streams, parks-funding operations and how they are all funded should be the city council's top priorities in 2017. The city has money for (parks) expansion, which is great, but Canby is down to two parks employees because it doesn't have the funds to maintain the current park system, he said.
Additionally, although they aren't necessarily "sexy" projects, capital improvements, transportation, storm water and sewer must continue to be planned in light of the inevitable growth of Canby, Hodson said.
"One of the things we have to do as government is provide those pieces," the mayor said.
Hodson also addressed the ongoing issues plaguing downtown businesses, namely the lack of shoppers and the city's marketing of downtown itself, the role small business owners play in the Canby community and the challenge to them that comes from online retail shopping, as well as the impact that the two "bookends" on each side of town — the shopping centers surrounding Fred Meyer and Safeway — have on the shopping habits of Canby residents.
"Local business owners are the people that drive our city," Hodson said. "Yes, Fred Meyer and Safeway are fantastic, but it is our small business owners (who are) showing up to coach softball teams and contribute to (Canby Area Chamber of Commerce) events. That's a piece we have to look at. When we talk about the bookends on (Highway) 99E, what is happening with all of those businesses in between? It's easy to forget those pieces. Amazon was very popular this last Christmas. It's really easy to (buy something online) and I do it too but we need to have a conversation about the pieces that will help people think about shopping locally as well."
Mengelberg then dropped some big news, as well as some updates, on the economic development front. She said there are seven or eight companies taking serious looks at constructing a new facility or relocating to Canby.
One of those companies is Wilsonville-based Trautman Art Glass, an international producer and seller of handmade glass products, which plans to move this summer to a location at SE Fourth Avenue and S. Sequoia Parkway.
Additionally, Mengelberg said McCormack Properties has a customer interested in leasing the newly-constructed Trend Business Center Building C, a 33,000-square-foot industrial building located just inside the entrance to the Pioneer Industrial Park on S. Sequoia Parkway. Mengelberg did not reveal the name of the prospective leaser and Scott McCormack said once the deal becomes official he will announce the client's name.
"It should be official soon," McCormack told the Herald.
Mengelberg did say that she was meeting on January 4 with representatives of Project Blue Ice — the city often creates code names for economic development prospects because companies that are considering purchasing land or investing in the construction of a significant new building do not want their names revealed until a deal officially is completed — a company that is considering moving to Canby and investing $40 million into a 450,000-square-foot facility. The site being considered also is located near S. Sequoia Parkway and SW Fourth Avenue and would house about 200 employees all in newly-created, well-paying jobs.
A Brazilian essential oils company "put in an offer" to purchase an existing building and move into Canby, partnering with local farmers to grow peppermint and other crops needed to create its products, Mengelberg said.
Project Borealis, a solar power company looking at investing $140 million, which would create an assessed property tax value of about $19 million — all potential new revenue for the city — and about 250 new "high-end jobs," has Canby on its short list of potential locations, and is considering only two other cities, Mengelberg said.
There also is a Canadian company looking into moving to a location along SE Fourth Avenue but no further details were provided, and talks continue regarding constructing a new hotel in Canby
And apparently a brewpub is interested in moving into the old city hall and police department building — the building exterior would not be changed due to its historical designation — but currently is just "kicking the tires," Hodson said.
"(Growth in) the (Pioneer) Industrial Park means new revenue for the city (via property taxes)," Hodson said. "We can't just rely on (tax revenue from) single-family homes and apartments. The industrial park is about 15 years old now and that's going to be the piece that generates the revenue piece we need for parks, police and all of the things we want to see happen in Canby. It'll bring new jobs, new residents — the (Sequoia Grove) apartments' waiting list is already half full. We have to figure out how to hold what we are doing until we get to that point."