By Patrick Fancher
Is Corvallis business-friendly? Well, that was the topic of Monday’s City Club meeting, and it’s a question that’s been bandied about frequently in the community as of late. With new start-up businesses emerging every day, some would say it’s important they know how to play the game the Corvallis way.
City Club invited four panelists, Corvallis Economic Development Manager Tom Nelson, Corvallis Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kevin Dwyer, President and Executive Director of Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI) Skip Rung, and Grassroots Bookstore owner and Corvallis Independent Business Alliance (CIBA) founder Jack Wolcott to discuss the city’s business and economical climate now and in the future.
Nelson admitted that Corvallis hasn’t always been business-friendly, but maintains there has been progress over the years in developing an improved business climate and economy. He showed a brief video from their website Yescorvallis.org called Understanding the Importance of Trade Sector. You can check it out here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYGRHJMtbZo.
He suggests the city continue to streamline processes for future development, and was optimistic that companies have a real chance to grow here.
Rung noted that Corvallis attracts innovative people that can invest because it is a higher-priced, affluent community that is highly educated. He maintains the city will continue to move the needle with young companies doing things that have never been done before, and that OSU will always be a major contributor. Other panelists noted that efforts are also being made to consider the housing supply for workforce residents.
Wolcott addressed concerns that smaller local businesses may have problems as larger businesses move into the area, saying that local business has an opportunity to serve in ways that bigger players cannot. He suggests as a paradigm for local businesses, “You have a gift to serve people of Corvallis.” He also outlined success stories of area businesses and the benefits of keeping money local. He said it’s the companies that exhibit local behavior that make a stronger economy. It is worthwhile to note that Wolcott’s Grass Roots Bookstore continues to grow in the initiatives it takes, even as Border’s came and went and as many other local bookstores throughout the country have not fared as well and closed.
Dwyer first questioned whether Corvallis has entrepreneurial spirit, though he quickly pointed out the success of local companies like Block 15, the Book Bin, O’Brien Dental Lab, and NuScale Power. He said the city needs to find a balance between an effective economic community and the long-time residents who challenge new business and residential developments.