Future economic development in Clatskanie may well rest with a large building in the center of town and Port Westward.
Civic and city officials acknowledge that the increasing number of empty store fronts is challenging, but they are quick to say the city is still moving ahead.
Ebbs and tides
“There are ebbs and tides sometimes in our growth when small business try to open in a bedroom city like we are,” Clatskanie Chamber of Commerce President Monica Hastings said. “We are still a thriving community.”
Hasting said the former Humps Restaurant on Highway 30 has been the center of discussion as a major city economic trigger.
“There has been hope that it may become a brew pub at some point,” she said. “That a large company would come in and reopen it so that it could become an iconic location on the way to the coast.”
“Humps should be a great thing if we can find an owner,” Clatskanie Mayor Bob Brajcich said. “If you’ve got a cold beer and a good sandwich, that’s about all it takes.”
Hastings said the chamber is also looking to enhance tourism.
“We have the Clatskanie River here,” she said. “People can bring in their kayaks and use the waterway. We also have the city park and the city’s skatepark that is being revitalized.
According to Hasting, increasing the tourism outreach will be key.
“It’s just getting the word out that Clatskanie isn’t just a drive through, but it is actually a destination to come and enjoy all that we have to offer,” Hastings said. “So, it would be nice to keep Clatskanie on the front page and show tourists it is a destination.”
Hasting said because the chamber organization is all volunteer, the challenge is keeping the economic momentum efforts going.
“Many of the volunteers are likely covering four or five other volunteer projects in the community,” she said. “We are using social media to help. We aren’t a tourism board, but we want to help that effort and keep it going.”
Hasting said capturing county and state tourism dollars is challenging because larger cities, such as St. Helens, gets the bulk of the transient room taxes.
“It is hard when you are in a county that is so stretched and spread out,” she said.
Hastings and Brajcich said the Port of Columbia County’s work to develop Port Westward is also a key economic growth opportunity for Clatskanie.
“It will help bring some business back, that’s why we keep focusing so much on shopping locally,” Hastings said.
“That would give people reasons to shop here,” Brajcich said.
Clatskanie City Manager Greg Hinkelman said the city is working closely with Columbia County to enhance tourism.
“The city has been involved with the Columbia County Economic Team,” he said. “The team is right now involved in a countywide initiative to get tourism options in place.”
Hinkelman said the county work should benefit Clatskanie.
“A countywide tourism website, for example, would help us and of course promoting our skatepark is an advantage for Clatskanie, he said. “We have spent $90,000 renovating that skatepark.”
The skatepark renovations were completed about six months ago.
“And we are already getting people from outside of the area as far away as Hood River who are coming here to skate at the park,” he said.
Hinkelman said the already-established restaurants, coffee shops and specialty businesses in Clatskanie are a draw. He added that he is hopeful the city could also better utilize the Clatskanie River as a tourism attraction.
“But we need more, and that is where entrepreneurism comes in,” he said. “We can only promote so much, so there has to be an entrepreneur here to give something to our visitors.”
Hastings and Brajcich said they remain optimistic about the city’s economic future.
“I am always optimistic,” Brajcich said.
“The more we can encourage the community to support the local businesses and the economy the better we are,” Hastings said.
In the Chronicle’s sister publication, The Chief in Clatskanie, we asked readers to take our online poll and tell us what they thought Clatskanie needs to do to spark new economic development. Of those responding, 42 percent said the city needs to attract more manufacturing; 24 percent said the city needs to make it easier to establish a business in Clatskanie; 20 percent said bring in more restaurants and 14 percent said the city needs to depend on Port Westward.