By Tom Henderson • Staff Writer • 

Governor gets down to business in Mac stop

Rockne Roll / News-Register##Oregon Gov. Kate Brown shakes hands with Linda Kelly of Dayton in front of Cornerstone Coffee Roasters in McMinnville. The governor, who is running for election, stopped in McMinnville Friday for a campaign event.
Rockne Roll / News-Register##Oregon Gov. Kate Brown shakes hands with Linda Kelly of Dayton in front of Cornerstone Coffee Roasters in McMinnville. The governor, who is running for election, stopped in McMinnville Friday for a campaign event.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown made a local campaign stop Friday, visiting with merchants at Cornerstone Coffee Roasters. Toy shop proprietor Linda Hayes took the opportunity to stump for McMinnville itself.

“This is an amazing community,” she told the governor. “As small as it is, as cozy as it is, it has everything.”

Brown started the morning in Albany and began working her way north. Before stopping in McMinnville, she visited with merchant groups in Independence and Monmouth for their input.

“The challenge is that you have some counties going berserk with growth while others are still struggling,” Brown told McMinnville merchants. “This isn’t just a 2016 problem that rural communities are struggling with. This is a decades-long problem. The question is what tools do we provide at the state level.”

Hayes, owner of Hopscotch Toys & Games, said small businesses need more of a voice both locally and statewide. “I would say that the local brick-and-mortar stores, the mom-and-pop operations, are under-represented,” she told Brown.

The toy merchant said she is fiercely devoted to promoting locally owned businesses, the reason she started selling toys 16 years ago, she said.

“They’re a gateway for me to help create a local economy and local connections,” Hayes said. “The toy store, as much as I love toys, is secondary. My passion is for McMinnville.”

Brown succeeded John Kitzhaber when he resigned Feb. 13, 2015, and is now seeking the office in her own right.

She told merchants she marveled at the vibrancy of local businesses in McMinnville.

Gerry Hunter, owner of Third Street Pizza and The Diner, said he has been in business for 19 years.

He told Brown McMinnville’s economy is the result of a great deal of conscious planning and hard work. It was a very different city when he first opened his doors, he said.

“It was a community working very hard to be vibrant in 1997,” he said. “Now we have one of the most popular Main Streets in the country.”

Brown said she understands the popularity of the community personally. Her niece is a student at the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific Northwest in Lebanon, and is renting in McMinnville while she attends.

“Medical students really love this town,” she said. “They want to be here.”

Judy Henninger, a retired public health professional now operating a home-based spice company, told Brown educational opportunities are vital for people opening their own small businesses. She got her start, she said, with the help of a small-business class at the McMinnville branch of Chemeketa Community College.

Like the other merchants, Henninger sang the praises of McMinnville’s business community. “This is the most welcoming community,” she said.

Brown said the economic success of McMinnville is mirrored by the rest of state. Despite talk of gloom and doom, she added, times are good. “We’ve had the longest sustained growth since we began keeping records,” she said.

The small communities of Yamhill County would benefit greatly from increased mass transit, said Brown after Hunter said one of his employees at the pizza parlor must spend more than an hour commuting to work on the bus from Grand Ronde. The governor said she has heard similar stories in other communities.

“Mass transit is the other key people around the state say they need,” she said. “We also need more mass transit on the weekends.”

Brown also discussed the need for additional resources for affordable housing as well as the needs for western Oregon communities to brace for the anticipated massive Cacascade Subduction Zone earthquake. The ability to shelter quake victims needs to be considered whenever a public building is constructed, she said. And all new construction needs to be able to stand the shaking, she added.

“Schools are our first priority because that’s where our kiddies are,” she said.

The earthquake and resulting tsunami seismologists say will rock the Pacific Northwest in the next 50 years threatens to be more destructive than the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The Japanese don’t provide much comfort, Brown said.

“They were as prepared as anyone in the world and they still lost thousands and thousands of people,” she said.

With so many issues on the table, Brown said she is looking forward to being elected and getting to work with the new Legislature no matter who the other players may be. Mostly, she said, she wants the election to be over. “I think the whole world will be relieved when the election is over.”

Returning to the local economy, Brown praised Yamhill County’s wine industry and said it is gaining a formidable reputation served at the White House during a dinner for the National Governors Association. The chardonnay came from Domaine Serene in Dayton.

Tenacity is the key to success in business, whether one is selling wine or toys, Hayes said.

When she started her store, an adviser told her the odds were stacked against her, presaging failure. “He was right, but he didn’t know how stubborn I am,” she said.