West Linn looking to bring in new business

Increasing the city's ability to draw new businesses, jobs and money is one of the West Linn City Council's goals for 2012. The council wants to revitalize and strengthen business in the city.

And although the city and the council have not had significant roles in economic development in the past, they are now looking to take a new direction.

In a shift, the city recently created an economic developer position and named former senior planner Chris Kerr to the position. He is expected to formally transition into the role June 1.

The city is also anticipating that one of the steps in the process will be a review of the resolution that created the volunteer economic development committee, whose members are historically appointed by the city council. As a result, the committee has been put on hiatus until future notice.

To kick-start an education process for council members, the council heard a presentation from members of the Clackamas County Economic Development Team during its April 16 work session.

Clackamas County has a variety of programs to promote economic development. The biggest key seems to be locating ideal locations for specific industries and then marketing those locations.

However, as a mostly bedroom community where many commuters live, West Linn struggles with not having the open land to attract large businesses.

'We are kind of unique,' Mayor John Kovash said. 'We are basically a bedroom community. We have empty storefronts. We don't like to have empty storefronts.'

Cindy Hagen, coordinator for the county economic development team, said Clackamas focuses first on retention and expansion of existing businesses. She said the county works to partner with cities and the state to recruit new business.

The team's manager, Catherine Comer, said the county is currently working with the city of Estacada to redevelop its downtown as well as a 130-acre industrial site.

The county is also in the midst of creating an interactive geographic information systems (GIS) map that will help the county match available business properties and its assets with potential buyers. The program should be finished by the end of the month.

The county also has its Main Street program, which works to maintain the character of downtown areas.

'That's something that's really important to us … maintaining the character of Main Street,' Comer. said 'All jobs count.'

She also said the county has tools on its website to help businesses succeed in Clackamas.

'We're really excited about economic development,' Comer said.

Kovash asked the county for help in getting a jumpstart in economic development in West Linn.

Council members also asked for input on how to take advantage of West Linn's high percentage of home-based business and how to increase export for small businesses.

Councilor Jody Carson also mentioned the importance of reopening the locks on the Willamette River and how their closure affects certain industries.

City Manager Chris Jordan said some complaints he has heard about businesses looking to locate in West Linn is that the city's codes are too complex and that it's system development charges are too high.

The council agreed that the next steps for economic development are to work with city staff to create a plan.

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