East County talks economic development
The theme of the morning during a gathering of the four main municipalities in East Multnomah County was collaboration and cooperation.
At the third-annual State of East Metro forum on Thursday, June 20, at Gresham City Hall, representatives from Gresham, Troutdale, Fairview and Wood Village all touted the works being done in their respective cities, as well as developments being completed by their neighbors.
"It's amazing the depth and breadth of services these four cities are able to bring you," said Wood Village City Manager Bill Peterson. "East County has a lot of tools, a lot of skills and a lot of capabilities."
At the event, which was hosted by East Metro Economic Alliance and sponsored by NW Natural, were Peterson, Troutdale City Manager Ray Young, Fairview City Manager Nolan Young and Gresham's Shannon Stadey, economic development director.
"The four cities work together really well," Ray Young said. "We have a lot of respect for each other."
The group spoke about housing, transportation, livability and legislation working its way through Salem.
All of the cities stressed the importance of urban renewal incentives as a way to push for certain types of development. In Gresham, it has been critical in securing large industries, while in Fairview the new program will be used to prompt more commercial space dedicated to food and drink.
While there was plenty of good natured ribbing and joking during the event, all of the city officials spoke about how they have worked together and inspired different programs.
Troutdale wants to emulate the pedestrian-focused downtown Gresham, with lots of restaurants massed in a few blocks, in its own downtown. Ray Young said high costs for amenities were deterring certain types of businesses, so a new program is being put in place.
"We are cutting wastewater system development charges by 50% for restaurants moving into downtown," Ray Young said.
That would mean a 100-seat restaurant could save $50,000 by choosing Troutdale.
Fairview has about 20,000-square-feet of commercial space that needs to be filled with tenants. Using its urban renewal projects, the city has about $100,000 in grants available for tenant improvements, specifically for restaurant equipment.
"We want to use urban renewal to incentivize certain types of development," Nolan Young said.
Transportation improvements were on everyone's mind. In Troutdale, the city is supporting work to expand sidewalks along 238th and the construction of a new overpass at 257th. The other cities also have street improvement projects in the works, as well as partnerships with TriMet to bring more public transit connections.
In Fairview the word of the day is roundabouts — which the city wants to utilize to improve traffic issues.
"We see roundabouts as potential solutions at several major intersections," Nolan Young said. "They smooth traffic and allow drivers to get through places quickly and safely."
The plan is for Gresham, Fairview, Troutdale and Wood Village to keep coming together and supporting one another.
"We all work together in a really unique way," Stadey said.