Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Sisters is shooting to attach itself to Redmond’s enterprise zone.

This is probably a better deal for Redmond than it is for Sisters; they get to add a severely economically distressed area to their application, making it more likely that they’ll be renewed by the state.

Not that I think a Sisters enterprise zone is a bad idea; I just don’t think it will have much impact, at least not by itself.

As we’ve discussed before, there aren’t a lot of sound business reasons for a light industrial enterprise to locate in Sisters instead of Redmond. Reasons have to be “irrational”; a business owner would have to override bottom line considerations for lifestyle considerations.

To that end, I put more faith in the current downtown renewal effort being pursued by the new Sisters Village Association (see The Nugget, March 18, page 1).

Here’s how I think this roles: Sisters maintains and enhances its quality as a tourist destination, with a vibrant community full of worthy cultural events — a thriving arts and music scene, rich outdoor recreation opportunities. Sisters maintains good schools (no guarantee, even with the passage of local option).

People come here to vacation, fall in love, decide they simply must live here and locate their business here. The incentives of an enterprise zone make it a little easier to justify and send a signal that, yes, Sisters welcomes you.

Perhaps Sisters actively goes out and courts the sort of people and businesses we want here, utilizes the Baker City “enterprise facilitation” model Chuck Humphreys touted to the council (story in The Nugget, March 18, page 1).

An enterprise zone is the least of our tools. Fighting off downtown decay, enhancing the vitality of our core and of our fundamental industry — tourism — is the critical mission. Next (actually, in tandem) comes a coherent, focused marketing campaign that shows off the best of Sisters and seeks to bring the best quality cultural tourism (geotourism is the current buzz word) to our doors.

Only when we create an overwhelming desire to be here, one that trumps pure business considerations, will enterprise incentives and facilitation kick in.

What’s needed now is synchronization of efforts, a clear understanding of where the horse and the cart go in the equation and a clear line of responsibility for making things happen.

The Sisters Village Association is a good sign. So, in its limited way is the possibility of an enterprise zone. But we can encourage enterprise with or without one if we first focus on polishing Sisters like the gem it is.

Jim Cornelius, Editor

No comments:

Post a Comment