The North Bend Downtown Foundation, a nonprofit group aiming to revitalize the city’s downtown business core, hired its first paid executive director and unveiled its new office at the North Bend Train Depot.
Members of the North Bend community gathered outside the new office on Sept. 21 for a celebration of the new group and ribbon cutting hosted by the SnoValley Chamber of Commerce.
Since its founding in 2014, the volunteer-run foundation has worked to promote the city’s downtown core, has run a city visitor center and has helped organize events like Sip, Suds & Si and the North Bend Block Party. Now, foundation members and city leaders say the newly minted group will elevate that work and provide even more advocacy and opportunities for economic growth.
“This is a huge moment and a culmination of work from a lot of members on the board,” said Lucas Hanes, a foundation board member and owner of Volition Brewing. “This signals a big boost for downtown North Bend.”
Leading the foundation is its first ever full-time executive director, Jessica Self, who was hired earlier this month using funds provided by the city of North Bend. Self runs a social media marketing and strategy group and has previously organized Snoqualmie Days and other community events.
“We couldn’t have done better than Jessica,” said Beth Burrows, foundation board president and North Bend Theater owner. “We expect great things. We’ve seen great things. It’s nothing but happy days.”
In remarks at the celebration, Self said the foundation aims to be a voice unique to North Bend.
“The foundation is here to help the community, support the community and be a voice for the businesses along with the [SnoValley] Chamber,” she said. “Since the chamber is a regional chamber, it’s very important to have the foundation just in North Bend.”
Alongside Haines and Burrows, the foundation board includes Jason Glazier, Britni Larson, Susan Torguson and Gaila Haas.
The foundation was awarded funds to hire Self under a contract approved in May by the North Bend City Council. That contract was a significant investment in the downtown foundation, which will receive $250,000 from the city through its one-time, federal pandemic relief funds. Funding will be allocated over a three-year span and used as an investment to make the foundation self-sufficient.
North Bend Mayor Rob McFarland called recent growth of the foundation “huge for the city,” noting the group has come a long way since its 2014. He also praised its members for the resources they provided during the pandemic.
“It’s impressive what they’ve done,” he said. “As our community grows, it was clear the downtown foundation needed to grow too.”
Under the contract, Self and the foundation are required to produce a multi-year strategic plan that outlines its vision for the downtown core and take on full responsibility of running city events.
Self’s hiring will also allow North Bend and the foundation to go after its goal of becoming a designated Mainstreet Community, a program from the state Department of Archaeology and Preservation that aids communities in improving their downtown core. Accredited communities have more access to grants and financing opportunities for downtown improvements.
Correction: This story has been updated to remove incorrect information about Self’s experience. We regret the error.