Is This Heaven? 

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No, It’s Rural Oregon. 

It’s okay, you’re not the first one to make that mistake. I wouldn’t live anyplace else. 

In an attempt to engage a business Emergency Resuscitation Plan the thought of attracting tourism dollars to small towns is high on the list. Here in Oregon many small towns are challenged to remain viable to their populations by offering the financial and career opportunities as they have for decades. The larger challenge is to avoid the temptation to respond in the same ways as they always have. These are different times. 

The worn admonition, “If you do what you’ve always done, you will get what you’ve always got.” Is an instruction to adapt to change. Our towns, large and small, have gone through the evolutionary process of extreme changes in the way communities must operate to be sustainable and vibrant communities. Citizens continue to live in places they call home, places they love, but also places that are not the same as they were thirty or fifty years ago, the way they were when grandparents built their lives. So, new efforts are in order. 

Is there a small town that isn’t bending over backward to increase the traffic of visitors? Tourists. It doesn’t seem so. Replicating the ideas and efforts of known community efforts that have seemed to be successful many times is misguided. Tourism is important but (in most cases) not financially strong enough to carry a local economy, especially in maintaining or replacing expensive infrastructure. 

A living wage, affordable housing, sustainable employment, healthcare, good schools, and a family friendly place to live are all part of the American dream. That dream has been fading, and in some instances has disappeared, especially in small towns. 

Communities across America are struggling to responsibly serve all of the citizens in their jurisdictions. Measures are required to slow the declines in living wage employment, adequate housing, education, healthcare, and a promising local future. 

“Closed” It is not new. Businesses must thrive not merely survive. 

We’re decades into an all-too-common scene across the country. Small businesses once thought to be a grand idea and answering a new owner’s dream of being in business for themselves out of ideas, out of customers, out of money. Another “Out of Business Sign” taped to another smalltown window. 

Something has been done, but that something has proven to be wrong. 

There are over 20,000 cities and towns in America facing the same dilemma. All are attempting to remain robust and essential in their deliverables. Assessments are needed to address the methods and responsibilities of the 21st Century that will keep them strong and viable. Yesterday’s solutions are unlikely effective. 

“Radical Change” is taking place, has been taking place for many years. As leaders in our communities, as business owners, and as local citizens, it is essential to understand the environment around us and 

how it has changed in the last three or four generations. New methods of facing a sustainability challenge are needed. 

Our piece of America may also be heaven, but it is our responsibility to work together to make it so. 

Greg Henderson is the retired founder of the Southern Oregon Business Journal. A University of Oregon graduate and a six year U.S. Air Force veteran. Contact him at

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