Generating new ideas
and invigorating rural communities
Over the past five years, nearly a dozen Economic Vitality Summits have been delivered around the state by Rural Development Initiatives, in partnership with The Ford Family Foundation. Summits were held in communities such as Sisters, Klamath Falls, Coos Bay, Silverton, Ontario and La Pine. The summits’ goal was to share resources and generate new ideas to invigorate rural communities.
In May, a sellout crowd of about 175 residents of the Santiam Canyon near Salem gathered for “North Santiam Economic Vitality Summit: Imagine the Possibilities.”
The group of business owners, economic development directors and students heard from speakers who explored ideas for building a vibrant economy.
Lanie McMullin, executive director of economic development for the city of Everett, Wash., told the group that the Santiam Canyon’s economic situation mirrors that of many rural communities nationwide: a region once dependent on natural resources that is now evolving into an information-based economy.
McMullin listed seven critical elements needed to achieve that transition: valuing education at all levels; embracing diversity; maintaining gathering places, such as restaurants, theaters, pubs, parks, libraries; art and culture; philanthropy; partnerships; and a strong and centered sense of community identity.