Business resources proposed for Woodburn
Questions regarding the health of local economics and taking steps to maintain and improve that health have emerged in Woodburn.
Would one localized entity with a strict focus on supporting and strengthening all businesses in Woodburn be worthwhile?
If so, how much would it be worth to each business in town to have that resource?
Woodburn City Council received its first look at a proposed Business Resource Center (BRC) during its Monday, Jan. 27 meeting. The center would be operated under the tutelage of the Woodburn Chamber of Commerce, but it would serve every business in town, not just those with chamber memberships.
Woodburn Chamber Executive Director John Zobrist presented the council with the idea, which incubated through communications with a mixed network of businesses and business-fortifying organizations. Examples of the latter include Merit, Chemeketa Small Business Development Center, Pacific University, Service Corporation of Retired Executives, Marion County Economic Development, Business Oregon, Construction Contractors Board and Secretary of State Corporations Division.
"There are so many resources that are out there…I wish we could really have a conduit to making (them readily available) in Woodburn," Zobrist said.
The general idea is that a Woodburn BRC would network with the various business-support entities and have a firm understanding of what each has to offer. With this understanding, any business in town that has a given need – anything from ideas to increase sluggish sales to instructions for handling the books to ideas for expansion – could consult with the BRC, which in turn could guide the business owner/operator to the most suitable resources to address their specific need.
Operated by the chamber, the BRC is estimated to cost about an additional $65,000, which would be paid for via business license fees. Woodburn's current business license fee is $50 per year; $25 for home-based sole proprietorships. To fund the BRC, those fees would increase to $110 and $55 respectively.
Zobrist noted that the money would not replace the existing revenue of the chamber; it would provide a rental office and conference space, a staff person and community outreach.
"When we first started talking about this, I wanted to go and interview and talk with different business owners," Zobrist said. "Overwhelmingly, all the business owners I talked to like the idea of a business resource center."
The director also acknowledged that business owners did share a concern about how it would be funded. The city installed the current business fee more than 12 years ago, and it was reportedly controversial with some businesses at the time.
City Administrator Scott Derickson, who has served on the Woodburn Chamber board, requested earlier that Zobrist reach out to all licensed businesses in Woodburn with a flyer to explain the proposed BRC idea.
"This is a service that would be available to the entire community, and not just chamber membership. It would be administered by the chamber in the interest of all businesses in the community," Derickson stressed.
While the BRC proposal has not officially come before the city council (Zobrist's presentation was informational), some councilors indicated guarded concerns. Councilor Lisa Ellsworth asked about the center's oversight and reporting the metrics showing its effectiveness; Councilor Eric Morris questioned the need to double the license fee to realize the BRC; Councilor Sharon Schaub clarified the number of chamber members who favored the idea; Councilor Debbie Cabrales asked if the outreach with businesses included owners across the cultural spectrum and languages.
Derickson explained that the BRC concept would seek to provide resources and guidance that are outside of the city's realm.
"As a local government, we provide police officers, waste water technicians (etc.), we don't have entrepreneurs or investment bankers," Derickson said. "Having an entrepreneurial resource in the community that can complement our current economic development program would provide a more complete opportunity for our business community to grow."
The chamber is continuing its outreach and welcomes input on the BRC proposal.
What: Woodburn Chamber of Commerce
Where: 270 Montgomery St., Woodburn; PO Box 194, 97071
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