Creswell: Bringing Economic Growth to “The Friendly City”

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Sarah Means
Community & Economic Development Manager


City of Creswell City Hall

Bringing Economic Growth to “The Friendly City 

The City of Creswell has long been known as a bedroom community for Eugene and Springfield. However, the city is working to change its reputation. The new vision for Creswell is defined best by the Mayor David Stram in the City’s Strategic Plan:

“Creswell will be a friendly place where people want to live and work. We envision a safe, inclusive, family-oriented small town of desirable neighborhoods with rural roots. Our community will support a resilient, robust local economy, serving as a gateway to outdoor recreation and travel. Our citizens will be actively engaged in improving and maintaining a high quality of life.”

One of the actions the city is taking to make this strategic plan a reality is to attract developers and new businesses to fill vacant industrial land. The land in and surrounding Creswell has many benefits for industry; it’s right off of I-5, near Eugene and Springfield, and close to a municipal airport. Much of it is in an enterprise zone and the City provides tax incentives for industry that chooses to fill the vacant land.

The City of Creswell invested in community development and projects with the University of Oregon’s Resource Assistance to Rural Environments program (RARE). While developments were made with this program, community needs were also identified, including a need for regional social service resources and economic strategy development.

Creswell is working with the University of Oregon’s Community Planning Workshop (CPW)  to help define its economic vision, while also recommending actions the City can take to support and grow its business community. A big part of this project includes listening to the existing community and understanding what is needed to both grow local businesses and attract additional business. The City is working to accomplish these goals by expanding infrastructure to aid established businesses.

While working with the University of Oregon (UO), the City of Creswell also hired Michael DeHart as its economic development coordinator. DeHart has worked to bring the economic vision the City and UO are actively defining into reality. In coordination with the local Chamber of Commerce and CPW, DeHart has begun to develop a framework for closer ties with local businesses, Travel Lane County, Lane County Economic Development, Rural Development Initiatives and other local economic development offices.

As part of this, the City’s team has been working on several planning documents simultaneously. These include an Economic Opportunities Analysis, which will aid the city in taking the first steps toward establishing an urban renewal area and embarking into a new Transportation System Plan. This project is intended to directly improve the state of economic development in Creswell. Other key documents are in the pipeline too, such as a Drinking Water Source Protection Plan that the Coast Fork Willamette Watershed Council is working on with Creswell. The City is also working on an Emergency Operations Plan and a Continuity of Operations Plan. Creation of these documents represents the City’s dedication to economic development and will allow Creswell to be more competitive in grant applications.

A Challenging Creswell Property

Much of the industrial development news in Creswell has focused on one property in particular for development. This is the Bald Knob veneer mill, a 42-acre property that burned down in 2008. The goal with this property, like so much of the city’s vacant land, is to get it back into industrial use.

Michael DeHart noted this challenge when he said: “The Bald Knob property is Creswell’s best, most productive, and most vital industrial property - it’s also the most constrained.”

To understand the property’s constraints, the City of Creswell commissioned an environmental site assessment on Bald Knob and remapped the floodplain. Additionally, Creswell City Planner Maddie Phillips has been working diligently to assemble a property portfolio for industrial buyers to understand the property and area at a glance.

However, Bald Knob is not the only property available for industrial development. Creswell is moving forward with a ten-step development plan which works to engage the community, grow business outreach, strengthen tourism, and create opportunities for new businesses in the area.

Creswell is making inroads with the Chamber of Commerce and local industry leaders, all of whom want economic development to move forward rapidly. In light of this, area business leaders and the Rural Development Initiatives are hosting an Economic Vitality Summit in Creswell on Saturday, September 24th. 

The City of Creswell is working diligently to build its outreach program and to listen to local businesses and residents. In doing so, they hope to grow their city while still maintaining their one-of-a-kind small town atmosphere. With all of the progress being made, it appears they are moving in the right direction!