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Owners seek to revitalize Carnation businesses

CARNATION _ A recent article in the Valley Record titled,

"Carnation's business climate grows

cold" prompted city officials to host an open business forum to find out if that

was true. One business owner said the city was either "burned out or closed

out" while another described it as a

"gold mine." And though the two

scenarios appear to clash with one another, many of the attendees said they both

had merit.

No one ignored the fact that about half a dozen storefronts along

Tolt Avenue remained empty, or that the lack of sewers in the city presented

an obstacle to rebuild several businesses including NAPA Auto Parts and

the River Run Cafe.

"It's hard to get an established, vital, growing business in town,"

said Steve Norton, owner of Steve's Collision. "A business is either growing

or dying."

Norton started the one-man business eight years ago, and since

then, his company has grown to include a towing operation. But that might

be the extent of the expansion for now because Norton said he can't fit

more drain field space on his property — and that means no additions.

However, the owners also shared their thoughts and visions on

how Carnation could move toward a more healthy business environment, and

in turn, happier residents.

One of the suggestions was to create a theme for the city _ country,

garden, agriculture _ one that would pull the businesses together and unite

the downtown core.

"This is an amazing place where it's still socially intact and it

hasn't been obliterated," said Carey Tremaine, an investment advisor.

"We have a culture here; it's pure Americana."

He envisions Carnation having a town center similar to the one

portrayed in the movie "Back to the Future" which had a clock tower,

landscaped areas and places to sit and visit with neighbors.

In 1997 the city entertained plans to construct a town center across

from city hall complete with a fountain, flowers and greenery to help

boost Carnation's identity. But after much controversy, the plan was put on

the council's "back burner" and will

probably be discussed again by the present council.

Many of the business owners agreed that a well thought out

plan would help lift the city's economy but admitted it would take a lot of

planning and dedication to achieve the desired look. In the meantime,

the owner of The Kona Klipper suggested beautifying the city — especially

on River Run's lot.

"This looks like Lebanon — [businesses] have burned out or closed

out," said Sandy Stratton. "With all

these blanks who wants to stop in a ghost town?"

"We need to pretty the place up."

There were also discussions on how to capitalize on the hundreds

of bicyclists who ride along State Route 203 and the outer edges of the

city. Several people said that the city needed a bicycle shop to attract

the customers to the city who would then patronize other businesses.

"I've been bringing customers from the highway into town and

they go to St. Vinny's and Ace afterwards," said Larry Newcomb, owner of

The Country Upholsterer. Newcomb recently opened the storefront on

Tolt Avenue to supplement his original operation on State Route 202

between Redmond and Carnation.

"We have to feed off of one another, and as others die off, we

can't survive," said Bob Cox of Ace Hardware.

But members of the city council and Chamber of Commerce are

hopeful that they can come up with a solution before the businesses face

extinction.

"We can't work on this ourselves," said Councilman Stu Lisk. "It'll

take every member in here to do it. We need a strong council-Chamber

relationship to create a good marketing plan."

"We're like a big battleship," added Chamber of Commerce

President Steve Collins. "We're not going to change it in 10 minutes."

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