In an earlier time Keizer residents voted to go their own way and incorporated into a city; the future was bright. The people didn’t want to become part of Salem, some didn’t even want to become a city. Overall, most people wanted to control the destiny of their community.
When Keizer incorporated into a city in 1982 there was plenty of land for new homes and businesses. These days viable land for sizable tracts of homes is slim; the on-going recession has given Keizer’s commercial development a one-two punch.
Our local unemployment rate has been frozen at 10 percent or more for months. No one looking for a job needs to be told how tough it is to find employment. We could be facing another blow if the state decides it has no choice but to lay off hundreds or thousands of its employees. In years past many looked to the state as a last resort employer; no longer.
It is up to the private sector to create the jobs the Willamette Valley needs. It is up to all governments—federal, state, local—to create an environment that gives businesses the confidence to hire again.
It is time for the mid-valley to work together for regional economic development. The hard truth is that Keizer currently has no parcels of land that can be developed into business or light industrial parks. Salem has land, Keizer has the desirable address. Let’s figure out how to use our respective strengths to attract the businesses that will create jobs.
This is where all the regional Chambers of Commerce and other economic organizations, such as SEDCOR, should be coordinating efforts to attract new business and industry.
Ideally, that means more big projects like the new Home Depot warehouse near Highway 22. Keizer shouldn’t see it as a loss if a business decides to open in Salem, if our neighbor has what that business needs. Unless or until Keizer has an expanded urban growth boundary to develop we must contend with the realities. We should see any added businesses and new jobs as a win for the entire region.
The health care industry will continue to grow as the nation ages. Positioning Keizer as a secondary medical care hub to Salem is an important element of our future economic growth. Aside from medical clinics our region should recruit research laboratories and companies that support the medical industry. We sit on the busiest north-south transportation corridor on the west coast, we are an hour from an international airport and it is less expensive to build in the mid-Willamette Valley than in the Portland metropolitan area.
Our region has assets that can be promoted to attract more employers. If we all coordinate our efforts we bring more businesses to the mid-valley. Keizer is fiercely independent, but tough times call for new approaches. We can all be winners by controlling our destiny and not hoping for a national economic resurgence that may not come.