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City among 15 semifinalists in nationwide competition.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Representatives of Frontier Communications present Tualatin team leaders with their invitation to the America's Best Communities Summit in Durham, N.C.

Tualatin's bid for national recognition and a hefty cash prize is alive, as the city advanced to the semifinal round of the America's Best Communities contest Wednesday.

Tualatin is one of just 15 communities across the United States that are semifinalists in the competition, which is sponsored by Frontier Communications, DISH Network, The Weather Channel and CoBank. It was previously named as a quarterfinalist last April, one of two Oregon communities out of 50 so honored.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - John Bartholomew of Mask & Mirror Community Theatre, referred to as the 'Pied Piper' of Tualatin's plans in the America's Best Communities contest, gives acknowledgments to the small crowd on Wednesday.The announcement was made at Hayden's Lakefront Grill in Tualatin just after noon Wednesday. It means Tualatin is still in the running to win as much as $3 million. It is the only Oregon community to make it to this stage of the contest.

“I think the plan that I've seen so far shows that you guys are in it for the long haul,” said Charles Culkin, Frontier's general manager.

The America's Best Communities contest team in Tualatin will also be sending a delegation to Durham, N.C., in late April to present the community's contest plan for a chance at winning a $100,000 grant prize.

Team leader John Bartholomew, who was recognized at the announcement, described himself as the “chief herder of Tualatin cats,” but he credited fellow members for the progress that has been made.

“This has been a remarkable group effort,” Bartholomew said. “I have the great privilege of standing on everyone else's shoulders here.”

After Tualatin was named as a quarterfinalist, its ABC Team unveiled a community revitalization plan in September calling for the creation of a mobile “Makerspace” to engage students in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) applications and education.

COURTESY OF AMERICA'S BEST COMMUNITIES - A map shows the 15 semifinalists in the America's Best Communities contest. Tualatin is the only one in Oregon and one of just three on the West Coast.Tualatin is home to a number of high-tech and manufacturing businesses, and team leaders said the community has an opportunity to create an employment “pipeline” to fill those jobs with local residents.

The ultimate goal of the plan announced in September is to build a “community career and creative center” to promote STEAM education. Prize money from the America's Best Communities contest could be used to further that goal.

Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden said the plan could help lift people into a new “economic strata,” in addition to providing a local workforce for businesses.

“It is not a silver bullet, but it's a bullet,” he said.

For the next round, the 15 semifinalists will be whittled down to eight finalists.

The top three communities will win $3 million, $2 million and $1 million respectively, according to the contest's sponsors.

The competition is a three-year process expected to conclude next year. About 350 communities from across the country originally entered the contest.

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