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How Do We Define Molalla?

by: MOLALLA PIONEER FILE PHOTO - Jenifer Kay HoodWhen it comes to defining our community it’s a good idea to look at how we would like it to be defined by others. Many people think that the definition of a successful community lies in remaining just as we are. Others think the best route is to allow ourselves to be swallowed up by the megalopolis that is Portland. As for me, I take the Goldilocks approach: I want a community that’s just right.

When I was three my father, a professional musician, moved the family to Los Angeles so he could be where there was more work. It may be hard to believe, but back then there was only one freeway through the San Fernando Valley and that was Interstate 5. Yes, the same I-5 that runs through Woodburn was once the only freeway in that part of L.A. Back then we kids hung out in the Big Tujunga Wash, a small but consistently flowing creek. We caught frogs, snakes and lizards, ate wild berries, raided the nearby farms and citrus groves, and petted the horses and sheep that grazed the hills. I still remember with delight sitting in an orange tree and eating the fruit fresh and fully ripe from the tree. After my parents’ divorce we moved to Topanga Canyon, even more rural, with deer and cougars and all sorts of other critters for us to view or avoid.

Because I watched L.A. become a megalopolis almost overnight I grew to hate that kind of economic development. The kind that says, “Go for the buck and to hell with raising kids some place safe and fun.” But I have also seen what happens to communities with a high rate of retail leakage or that rely too much on one industry. They die a slow and painful death. Becoming a bedroom community by virtue of proximity to a major city doesn’t always save a community either. Without a commercial and industrial tax base the schools are slowly strangled. When schools become overcrowded people stop moving in. This is also the case when kids start being bussed to distant schools after the closure of local schools.

So what’s the solution? In my opinion it starts with generating local jobs. This does not mean “smoke stack chasing”—a term used to define a community that tries to attract a major corporation from outside the community through willy-nilly use of incentives. It means working with your existing employers to see if they can’t find ways to expand and hire more local workers. It means bringing in the sort of retail local folks will support and thus solving two issues—retail leakage and lack of local jobs. It means working to seek out those companies that are a good fit for your community either because they complement the products produced by another local firm or because the natural environment is suitable to their industry. For example, Modern Construction is a good choice for us because their executives already live in the area, they are a company that reflects the skills of local industries, and they wanted to be located near the local shopping district (which means there is a greater chance they will patronize our local shops, restaurants and service providers). All these things are possible if we can illustrate to the world our willingness to create a business friendly environment.

And what can Molalla residents do to help these things happen? Become active in your Main Street program, work on façade improvements (TEAM can still help you find financing), support the Rodeo Walk of Fame, tell your friends, neighbors and family members about the wonderful opportunities here, and most importantly don’t succumb to the naysayers; adopt a “can do” attitude. Working together we can make Molalla move!

... Jenifer Kay Hood is the former executive director of the Team for Economic Action in Molalla. Jenifer wants to thank all Molalla residents for doing all they can to improve the business climate in the community and she wishes all well