By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Complex context of local growing pains

In case you hadn’t noticed, McMinnville is experiencing some growing pains.

It happened around 1980, when the city population hit 15,000; about 2000, when that population passed 25,000; and now, 20 years later, with about 35,000 residents.

Growing pain factors go beyond population increase. One complex dynamic can be generational changes in the community leadership infrastructure governing growth and economic development.

For a century-plus, that leadership infrastructure was stable and relatively unchanged. It consisted of a cohesive array of civic leaders: the Chamber of Commerce, later joined by McMinnville Industrial Promotions and then McMinnville Downtown Association; a fiscally conservative city government; and a strong, independent Water & Light utility, providing focused response and support for initiatives put forth by civic leaders and other citizens.

All of those elements exist today, but the leadership and decisionmaking infrastructure has been fragmented in ways that confuse the general population and sometimes even bewilder the economic leaders themselves. Consider your own depth of knowledge about these much-intertwined economic development organizations:

We have the high-profile McMinnville Economic Development Partnership working to maintain a strong industrial-based economy; the near-secret “Stable Table” group; a highly funded Visit McMinnville organization promoting tourism growth; the McMinnville Urban Renewal District trying to return core city infrastructure to past excellence.

We have a city government that in recent years has taken over decisionmaking reins to manage how, where and why McMinnville develops and grows. The city has developed its extensive but little-known Economic Development Strategic Plan, known as Mac Town 2032, and other complex issues of community growth are driven by work of such city-run groups as MacPAC, the Historic Landmarks Committee and the Affordable Housing Committee.

Other community-changing ideas are emerging from the city’s 13-member Economic Vitality Leadership Council and a related Diversity Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee, and we suspect we’ve missed a few elements in this mix. In fact, we just learned through informal sources that a new subgroup is being formed to develop a downtown master plan.

People populating these growth and development entities are well-intentioned and care about McMinnville. They attend dozens and dozens of meetings, and some believe they have a handle on solutions to McMinnville’s current growing pains.

However, the resulting cacophony of story lines is beyond the understanding and access of most citizens. There are too many decisionmaking groups, too many meetings, too many 600-page reports and too many moving parts.

We’ve all heard these sayings: A camel is a horse designed by a committee; an elephant is a mouse designed by government specifications.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

 

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