By editorial board • 

Time for museum to look outward rather than within

The $150 million Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum complex, which includes an aviation museum, space museum, theater, water park, chapel and adventure park, is unparalleled as a local asset. Its magnificence is virtually unmatched anywhere. It would be an amazing addition to a city the size of Seattle, let alone one of barely over 30,000.

But it is also seriously imperiled. Because of unwise and improper commingling, the museum became badly tangled in the collapse of its long-standing corporate benefactor, Evergreen International Aviation. As a result, Southern Oregon’s Umpqua Bank is threatening to claim the aviation museum and theater to satisfy $26.8 million in defaulted loan obligations, and Portland’s Hoffman Construction could claim the chapel and adventure park to satisfy $1.9 million in construction debt.

Meanwhile, creditors are claiming, seizing and/or selling priceless and unique aviation exhibits. At least 20 vintage planes have been put into play, and Umpqua could, at least theoretically, lay claim to the rest. What’s more, the museum is creaking under well over $1 million in back property taxes and a hefty rent increase imposed by Umpqua.

It would be foolhardy for any creditor to force the museum under. While its buildings have impressive book value, they are uniquely suited for narrow purposes, occupy a remote setting, carry substantial tax obligations and would be most costly to secure and maintain. So it makes more sense for the likes of Umpqua and Hoffman to simply extract what they can in rent.

But to secure long-term footing, the museum needs a new benefactor — its home community. If there is only one approach that makes sense for the creditors, there is also only one that makes sense for the debtor — emulate Linfield College and its highly successful Partners in Progress campaign.

To date, members of the museum’s board and command structure have done virtually nothing to establish identity or forge ties in town. They aren’t networking through Kiwanis or Rotary, volunteering with service agencies like YCAP, assuming roles in city, county, school or chamber affairs, or building ties with leading businesses like Freelin-Wade or OMI. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to determine who’s actually serving on the board these days, let alone when the board meets and what direction it’s taking.

That situation needs to change. Wringing hands over the flow of negative news isn’t going to help.

Museum leaders need to get serious about embracing their community, the only lifeline in sight.

Comments

jeff lorton

I agree wholeheartedly with this assessment of Evergreen by the editorial board of the News Register. In the last year, my firm has had several dealings with the Museum leadership both as the promoter of the Precision Farming Expo held at the museum last fall and as the Yamhill County Economic Development contractor. The editors contention that the museum board has done virtually nothing to build community relationships is true and worse yet, the "command structure" have not only ignored the many warning signs that calamity is coming but also spurned a lot of well thought out suggestions on how to improve community relations. The recent shakeup of the Museum Board has yet to result in a new Executive Director or Marketing team. It's time for a change. As a recent renter of the facility, the experience left much to be desired. Granted, our company only spent a little over $20,000.00 over two weekdays but we still feel our concerns about the faults in the quality of service are valid. What was the response to those concerns? "Where else are you going to find a venue of this size..." Answer: The Salem Convention Center. Please understand. I love the museum. I spent my 46th birthday there as a gift from my wife. It's architecture and aircraft collection are world class, it's cadres of docents, many of whom are veterans are fine examples of American exceptionalism, and it's educational opportunities are nearly priceless as we have no idea which young student or visitor might be inspired to become the next John Glenn or Sally Ride. In short, it's a special place and worth saving. However, it is time for the Museum to start listening to the community and it's customers. With a reputation for arrogance and questionable decisions, it's time for management to show real leadership by stowing the attitude, rolling up the shirt sleeves and beginning the humble work of regaining trust.

Oracle Jones

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall......

Fluer

The museum board needs a serious wake up call. Make them accountable for their actions. They may think they are the only game in town, however there are other places to hold events. They have neglected to pay their bills in a timely manner. Allow the creditors to be paid in full, whether through auctioning off equipment or buildings. Eventually management will decide they need to step up and do what is right.

gophergrabber

Why would anyone expect anything from "Evergreen" other than foolish pride and a feeling that somehow, they don't need to be good neighbors. It was built on egocentric grounds and will remain that way until the lights go out. Just as planned.

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