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With support, Prineville’s renaissance can happen

A group of business people, planners and experts are beginning to look at methods of changing the face of Prineville's commercial face ... an effort that would shape everybody's perception of what Prineville is and will be
As the fastest growing community in Central Oregon, Prineville is about to pull up to a crossroad. If we go one direction we will likely end up as nothing more than a faceless bedroom community serving at the pleasure of Bend and Redmond. If we take the road suggested at the Wednesday morning meeting of Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce’s Business Council we have an opportunity to make Prineville a strong, vibrant, independent community. I think none of us want to go down a freeway toward the first choice, rather I believe the strong pioneering heritage and fresh community leadership is about to step forward and turn our bus onto a new road, the road to a Prineville renaissance. One thing Crook County and Prineville leadership has excelled in is its long range planning process. We have had Visions, Master Plans and Downtown Street Improvement Plans and all sorts of other blueprints to improve our community. While many of these ideas have gone to fruition, still more are sitting on shelves throughout the community gathering dust waiting for the leadership, the money or some other missing element to put them into action. The process seems to be getting ready to start all over again. Wednesday morning about 40 people gathered at the monthly meeting of the Business Council to hear three speakers talk about creating an identity for the community and the complimentary redevelopment. What was different about this meeting was not that the speakers offered any golden key to get the process moving, rather it was important to note who was at the meeting. Short of attending some big social or charitable event I don’t ever recall being at a meeting with so many community leaders. In addition to a dozen or so Chamber of Commerce members who regularly show up for the monthly meeting we had the mayor, the judge, the city planning director, the county planning committee chairman and many other community leaders. This group of citizens has the power and the vision to create that Prineville renaissance. Of course, like all roads less traveled this will be a path, filled with rocks, switchbacks and all sorts of other obstacles. Obviously the task ahead is momentous, but as MerrieSue Carlson from the governor’s office pointed out at the Wednesday meeting, “Now is a time to take hold of our image before it’s dictated to us.” Chamber of Commerce president, Donna Mohan said, “I feel very strongly about the revitalization of our downtown area and I think that with the resources we were given, we have a better idea of what steps we need to take to make our vision a reality.” “This is going to take a focused effort.” According to Diane Bohle, executive director of the Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce, “Our historic economic engines-- timber, agriculture and ranching are struggling industries right now. The point was made that downtown revitalization could help diversify the economic landscape. I see two challenges. First, there is the challenge to create a local economy, to support local business, and to keep local dollars circulating locally. The other challenge is to attract tourism dollars. These are important ways of diversifying our economy. These are just two challenges that a vibrant downtown could meet head on.” Speaking realistically after the meeting, Chet Peterson, chairman of the county planning commission, pointed out that even though this group has many of the elements necessary to make changes in Prineville all the planning will be for no purpose without the cooperation of the landowners. The road to a Prineville renaissance may be beginning, but several things need to happen quickly: I encourage the downtown property owners to step up to the table and be a part of this group. Don’t let your investments dwindle away, give them new life, give the community a fighting chance. Your efforts and future investments could pay big dividends. For the planning group, rather than starting over from scratch, you should pull all the old dusty plans off the shelves and go through them and take out all the best parts, incorporating them into new plans. Don’t delay in your efforts. Donna Mohan said it best in her speech to the annual Chamber of Commerce dinner last week, with apologies to Nike, “Just Do It!” The process has started. The next meeting will be Thursday, February 15th at the OSU/Crook County Extension office conference room at 498 SE Lynn Boulevard at 7 a.m.