No big surprise. Not to those of us who have lived in Oregon's capital city for a long time, and gotten to know why its nickname is So-lame.
Yesterday Statesman-Journal reporter Michael Rose laid out interesting details of how Salem is losing a bunch of jobs to Lake Oswego, a city on the edge of Portland.
Download Holiday Corporate Office to Leave Salem
One of Salem's most successful, homegrown businesses is headed to the Portland area with 180 good paying jobs in tow.
Holiday Retirement, the owner and operator of retirement communities founded by the late Bill Colson, is moving its corporate office from Salem to Lake Oswego by the spring. Based in Salem since its inception in the 1970s, the company ranks among the nation's largest providers of senior housing.
Scott Wood, general counsel for Holiday Retirement, confirmed that the company was relocating its headquarters when contacted by the Statesman Journal. He refused to comment on the company's reasons for leaving Salem.
The exodus of Holiday Retirement's headquarters to a Portland suburb reflects a persistent problem for Salem. The City of Roses is viewed as the state's business and cultural hub. Executives with the money and means often chose Portland over Salem for their homes. Even the governor lives in Portland and commutes to Salem. When businesses and their employees flee Salem for Portland, money and community leadership go north as well.
...Economic development officials, such as Burstedt, note the availability of industrial land, an ample workforce, and local governments' eagerness to bring new employers to the [Salem] area.
For others, however, Salem doesn't outshine Portland.
"We talk about it all the time. It's the hard-to-put-your-finger-on cool factor," said Peter Fernandez, Salem's interim deputy city manager. Many corporate "big shots" — especially those who are newcomers to Oregon — will pick Portland, he said.
Who can blame them?
Like many other people, my dentist lives in Portland and has his office here. To them Salem is a place to work, not a place to live and raise a family. The Portland area has better schools, more cultural opportunities, greater creative diversity, and that all-important "cool factor."
I've said that we can improve Salem's economic development by stranging up this town. The news that Holiday Retirement is leaving supports what I said in a post, "Strange Up Salem -- it'll bring jobs here."
I hope there aren’t many Strange Up Salem skeptics, but some might say that this campaign to spice up our overly bland city is out of touch with the “jobs, jobs, jobs!” cry that dominates so much of social discourse these days.
They’d be wrong.
As noted in my first call-to-strangeness, something strange is out of the ordinary. And most businesses thinking about locating or expanding in Salem aren’t interested in ordinariness.
After all, what they’d be offering is an alternative to what is available here now. So they’re looking for evidence that people who live here are going to be open to fresh possibilities.
Thus if we Strange Up Salem, we’re engaging in economic development. Along with making this town more creative, fun, dynamic, and appealing.
Makes sense to me. (Well, it should, since I wrote it, and I'm me, so far as I know.) Also, to a good share of those who commented on the Statesman Journal story. For example, John Merrell says:
the 'hard to put your finger on cool factor'?
try authenticity, culture, diversity, hospitality, mobility, etc., etc.
salem is about as phony as they come. it is a wannabe city that has sacrificed all the above on the alter of the same corporate sameness that is seen in any number of other 'mid-size' cities around the country. the lack of authenticity is exacerbated by a mangled transportation system (with such shining examples as lancaster drive, s commercial or river rd n) and the stifling conservatism that often exhibits itself in state capitols.
there is little, if anything, 'cool' about salem. 'exciting' developments such as keizer station only serve to double down on the very things that detract from what salem could offer...
disclaimer: i have not lived in salem for almost 20 years, and do my best to avoid frequenting anything but the peripheries of the town unless forced to travel through on the way to somewhere else.