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Videos highlight St. Helens to sharpen image

SHEDCO producing series of short YouTube films


The St. Helens Economic Development Corp. has embarked on a new strategy to bolster St. Helens’ image: a video series depicting life in the Columbia County seat and highlighting local businesses, events and organizations.

A short video surfaced on popular website YouTube on Tuesday, Nov. 19, depicting daily life in St. Helens. Just one week later, it had received almost 750 views.

The woman behind the “We Are St. Helens” video channel on YouTube is Mary Heberling, who became SHEDCO’s Main Street Program coordinator earlier this year.

“It was an introduction on what to expect in the YouTube channel itself, but it also turned out to be almost like an advertisement for St. Helens,” Heberling said of the video posted Nov. 19. “It kind of became more than just an intro video, but a way to kind of express, ‘This is St. Helens. This is who we are and this is what we do.’”

The purpose of the video series is both to advertise St. Helens to people in other communities as a place to visit and inspire pride in St. Helens residents, as Heberling explained it.

“It’s myself and three other AmeriCorps volunteers in St. Helens, and we kind of wanted to follow SHEDCO’s mission of helping the St. Helens area economically and in other ways,” said Heberling. “It’s kind of a way for the people of St. Helens to have a platform to showcase their talents and businesses and ideas as well.”

Heberling added, “You know, there’s a lot of great things here, and it’d be awesome to showcase them to other outside communities.”

Heberling said she has been using a camera from St. Helens City Hall to shoot video for the series.

The St. Helens City Council viewed the introductory video at a work session earlier this month.

Speaking Wednesday, Mayor Randy Peterson said he thinks using YouTube videos to promote his city is “a good idea.”

“I think anything that we do that tells people about St. Helens and what it’s about is good, and yeah, I think people will see that and want to come to St. Helens to check us out,” Peterson said, adding that it also “makes people who already live in St. Helens feel better about where they live.”

Heberling’s approach is to “keep it short” — the introductory video is one minute, 19 seconds in length. She said people on the Internet often avoid or do not finish watching longer videos.

The “We Are St. Helens” videos will all be released on YouTube, Heberling said, and more are on their way.

“We’re planning on having about two each month, maybe more, maybe less, depending on what our schedules are,” Heberling said.

The next video will be holiday-themed, Heberling said. She said to expect it during the first week of December, although the schedule will change in January.

“We plan on doing it the second and fourth week of every month,” said Heberling. “December’s kind of a little weird because of the holidays.”

Heberling just moved to St. Helens in September to take up her new position with SHEDCO. Although she is from Portland, she said, she had only visited St. Helens “once or twice” before becoming Main Street Program coordinator.

Asked how being new to the community affects her filmmaking, Heberling characterized it as an advantage overall.

“I think it kind of works both ways. It’s definitely an advantage because I think I have a good sense of looking at things from a new perspective,” Heberling said, although she said it is a slight disadvantage to not know “everyone or ... everything that’s there” in the community.

“We Are St. Helens” will be split up into five series, Heberling said. The first will focus on local businesses, the second on community events, the third on the history of the area, the fourth on local nonprofit and service organizations, and the fifth on the outdoors and recreation in the area.