By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
The Keizer Chamber of Commerce is looking to have community conversations throughout 2015.
Dan Clem, director of the chamber’s Government Affairs Committee, gave an update on the plans during the Jan. 20 Economic Development and Government Affairs Committee meeting, held at the chamber office in Keizer Station.
“We will have 12 community conversations throughout the year,” Clem said. “We had our first meeting Jan. 6 at JC’s Pizzeria and had about 12 people. We hope to have another with the health care industry on Feb. 26 at noon. We will talk about business and supporting Keizer business. Our intent is to carry on community conversations once a month. At the Jan. 6 meeting we connected with a couple of businesses. We are trying to strengthen that connection.”
AJ Nash, a commercial broker with Hancock Real Estate, noted Nick Harville with SEDCOR (Strategic Economic Development Corporation) has been collecting information from tenants.
“What he’s doing gives you the answers you’re looking for,” Nash said. “The access point is the property owner. If you have a good handle on the current tenant mix, Nick has gotten access to communities looking to go forward at the same time. That could be an incredible value for this organization. Rather than reinvent the wheel, get an idea of questions other communities are asking. There’s no better place than the chamber to deploy that.”
Clem noted chamber leaders have offered to partner with city leaders on surveys.
“We have copies of questionnaires,” Clem said. “I figure we will have the community conversations.”
Nate Brown, director of Community Development for the city, noted the importance of communication.
“For that to gain traction, you need to have dialogue,” Brown said. “You need to have that dialogue with as many people as possible before budget time.”
Harville noted he’s been doing some of that.
“One good part of the project is it’s about the community,” Harville said. “The community leaders are the people you need to reach.”
Mayor Cathy Clark opined efforts need to be stepped up.
“Previous conversations have not yielded enough good information to bring to budget time,” Clark said. “I would urge the board to weigh in and to have a board conversation.”
Clark noted the new Economic Development Commission met on Jan. 6 as well, which included a conversation about what to talk about with the owners of Schoolhouse Square at the corner of Chemawa and River Roads.
“How can we encourage them with specific ideas that would be good for Keizer?” Clark said. “We shared some of our vision for a Keizer renaissance area. We want them to know who they are, so they’d be able to bring their vision to us.”
Clark believes engaging business owners will pay dividends down the road.
“The reason River Road sidewalks didn’t get done (in the past) is the business owners don’t live here,” she said. “It wasn’t on their radar. If we can engage them early and show them we have ideas to benefit both parties, it will help us move forward. The business climate now is much better than three to five years ago.”