Make the McKenzie Connection!

Is there a future along "Main Street?"

McKenzie River Chamber of Commerce sponsors listening sessions

VIDA: Ideas on ways local businesses could work together to improve the McKenzie area’s regional economy were at the core of a meeting last Saturday. The hour-and-a-half gathering at the Vida McKenzie Community Center drew about a dozen people representing businesses ranging from resorts to river guiding.

Discussions centered on a model that’s been used to revitalize communities around the United States for about 40 years. By recognizing that rural economies could benefit from a custom approach to downtown revitalization, Ore-gon Main Street convened a group of statewide and regional representatives to develop a concept they called the Rural Regional Main Street program.

A successful pilot launched through the Oregon Frontier Chamber of Commerce was started in Gilliam, Sherman, and Wheeler counties. Beginning with one in 2021, the program expanded to nine in 2023.

All, though, were small incorporated cities. The meeting on April 26th was the first of three planned to see if McKenzie’s unincorporated towns could adopt some of the ideas that have worked in other areas.

“We hope to hear what people want to see, where their priorities are, and where there’s alignment in those ideas,” explained Amy Hause, deputy director of Rural Development Initiatives in Coburg, at the start of the meeting. She, along with Kevin Teater of Streetview Planning of Beaverton led the group through a series of exercises she said could help people find “ways to coordinate the region as a whole to work together and reinforce each other’s work.”

By 4:30, people had identified some items ranging from the area’s national name recognition to potential for year-round recreation as positive assets.

Opportunities for future development, they said ranged from several underutilized buildings to growing opportunities related to agriculture.

When asked to envision what the future might hold, some pointed to the future opening of the McKenzie River Discovery Center (MRDC), as well as the large number of undeveloped lots near Rainbow.

The first listening session was focused on the area’s small business economy. The next, set for May 10 at the MRDC will discuss the economics of arts and culture. The third meeting will be held at the McKenzie School District’s board room on May 30th to discuss nature and the recreation economy. For more details, contact [email protected]


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