In some ways, our theme this month is reawakened many times in many places in the U.S. — a new generation is using fresh ideas and youthful energy to explore the latest frontiers of capitalism. With good ideas, bravery, lots of work and sufficient capitalization, young entrepreneurs can prove that America is still the leader in bringing life to small-business startups. It is this formula for success that made America into the nation we appreciate today.
The fact is, though, that you don’t have to travel very far to find lots of communities where not much is happening. Even in the comparatively lively Pacific Northwest, beyond the immediate vicinity of the great Eugene-Portland-Seattle-Everett-Bellingham-Vancouver metroplex, it doesn’t take long to drive through towns where the last good idea appears to have withered away decades ago.
Embedded as we all are in our home on this magnificent coastline and splendid river estuary, it’s too easy to take for granted the scale of creativity coming to life here. With robust tourism and economic revitalization grounded in a spectacular setting, the Columbia-Pacific region is coming to be an active participant in the overall Northwest’s growth and popularity. This stands to reason — coastlines near thriving metropolitan centers tend to be magnets for young creative people.
Long-time residents can remember a time — not so long ago — when this area’s success was no sure thing. Take a trip down memory lane to 1990 or even 2000 and you will find local towns that felt unloved and far removed from a meaningful path forward. A burned-out plywood mill greeted motorists arriving in Astoria from the east. Long Beach only had sidewalks on a few blocks downtown. Seaside went through a lengthy period when major buildings were vacant or seriously underutilized.
There was a common shared perception that this was perhaps just too far away from the cities to ever develop a truly functioning year-round economy. It took decades of slow and steady public and private investment to get as far as we have today, with towns that attract young business people.
It is good to see the realism reflected in their voices. They understand the importance of building trusting relationships with customers, positive networks that can help them fully capitalize on good times and survive the slow months of mid-winter. As this year demonstrated, the off-season can be very slow indeed. Without a sustaining safety net of local clients, a good reputation, a low debt load — today’s charming little business will become the vacant storefront of tomorrow.
Some of the optimistic entrepreneurs profiled in CRBJ will find long-term success in their current endeavor or some future iteration. Others will be gone next year, already trying something else in different towns or states. Nearly all involved are likely to be better, wiser people for having tried.
It’s impossible to overemphasize the importance of utilizing services like Clatsop Economic Development Resources to learn the best ways forward for starting a business and avoiding some of the most obvious pitfalls.
Ultimately, what makes this a great place for young entrepreneurs is that we all want you to succeed. CEDR, CRBJ, Pacific County Economic Development Council and a host of local business groups are all on the side of success. Most of us have been around long enough to thoroughly appreciate the fun and excitement of having new businesses in town. If we can help, we will.