Madras Grass Roots Plans Coming to Fruition

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MadrasMadras City Administrator Mike Morgan described the diverse initiatives as “building blocks” of a pyramid which have been put in place as part of a long-term cohesive program started almost a decade ago to improve the Jefferson County’s “livability” factor, including the $25 million expansion of Mountain View Hospital, a new City Hall and Police headquarters, the long-awaited opening of the Madras campus of Central Oregon Community College (COCC) and the unveiling of a new five-plex cinema complex.

Other highlights in the shared community vision of a brighter future – which in recent times saw the launch of the hugely popular Aquatic Center – also span expanded parks and recreation amenities, incorporating a linked trails system, improvements to the general aviation airport via state grant funds, urban renewal programs to spruce up the downtown core and incentives regarding business retention and recruitment opportunities for the city’s sprawling industrial park.

The diverse projects cater to the growing community’s demands for the foreseeable future and is seen as a major catalyst for economic growth.

One of the hot buttons for the community was public safety and Morgan said major investment had gone into that area for Madras, which has a high ratio of officers to population and reports crime rates below the national average, and some of the lowest in Oregon.

Diverse Initiatives Combine to Enhance Madras Quality of Life Factor

2011 looks to be a banner year for the greater Madras area with a number of evolving paths towards enhancing quality of life for the vibrant community at the northern gateway to Central Oregon.

City Administrator Mike Morgan described the diverse initiatives as “building blocks” of a pyramid which have been put in place as part of a long-term cohesive program started almost a decade ago to improve the area’s “livability” factor, including the $25 million expansion of Mountain View Hospital, a new City Hall and Police headquarters, the long-awaited opening of the Madras campus of Central Oregon Community College (COCC) and the unveiling of a new five-plex cinema complex.

Other highlights in the shared community vision of a brighter future – which in recent times saw the launch of the hugely popular Aquatic Center – also span expanded parks and recreation amenities, incorporating a linked trails system, improvements to the general aviation airport via state grant funds, urban renewal programs to spruce up the downtown core and incentives regarding business retention and recruitment opportunities for the city’s sprawling industrial park.

The hospital project set to break ground later this year will see the transformation of somewhat dated buildings into a state-of-the-art modern medical facility to cater to the growing community’s demands for the foreseeable future, and is seen as a major catalyst for economic growth.

Morgan added, “It is certainly important in terms of providing top quality medical infrastructure, positions us well for the future and speaks to the aspirations of this community.

“I also must say that I have been very pleased with the medical professionals that have moved here. We have some of the best young doctors in the state, who have quickly become part of the fabric of the community and have involved themselves in many facets of local life.

“Strength of the medical community is a critical component in attracting people to our area and is one of the first things a company or individual will check out when considering relocating, as well as other factors such as quality of education and lifestyle amenities.
“We are always trying to define what contributes to livability, and one of the things we did for our budget committee a couple of years ago was to put together a matrix in this area measuring our goals against the national grade.”

HOT BUTTON
One of the hot buttons for the community was public safety and Morgan said major investment had gone into that area for Madras, which has a high ratio of officers to population and reports crime rates below the national average, and some of the lowest in Oregon.

Part of that policy played into plans for a new Police Station which will incorporate latest technologies and is planned to share space with City Hall fronting a public plaza; replacing the dilapidated old headquarters currently used by both jurisdictions.
Morgan said, “We have been working with Steele Associates Architects on this project and they have been very involved in the community and in collaborating on how best to articulate our goals.

“I think when the new development is complete it will be an iconic feature of downtown, especially the striking public plaza, and when people travel through town it will leap out in terms of visual effect.”

Under the same livability heading, trails and parks were rated as of prime importance and have been almost doubled in size since the City council, in 2004, adopted a masterplan to address needs and make improvements incrementally.

In fact, major strides have been made recently towards the aim of completely encircling the city with an interconnected trail system. Recent developments to this end have included the installation of a steel frame pedestrian bridge across Willow Creek, with the aid of a grant from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, and a new $308,000 project to build an overlook and create trails connections from Willow Canyon and the skatepark to “M” Hill on the Westside of Madras.

Improvements are also contemplated in linking to areas like the new Youth Fishing Pond on Jefferson County Fairgrounds property, which has come to reality with the help of professional services donated by Steele Associates, Froelich Consulting and Hickman Williams engineers.

FOCUS ON TRADED SECTOR
Another major goal, on the economic development front, is a focus on cultivating traded sector business (where the majority of goods or services are traded outside of a company’s home base area) seen as important in bringing wealth into the community.

Madras is fortunate in this respect to have large tracts of competitively priced available land and buildings in the airport industrial park area, which is already home to successful companies such as the Bright Wood Corporation, Keith Manufacturing, Double Press and Mid Columbia Box. The hub is also well served by major highways (97 & 26), rail and air facilities.

Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) Jefferson County Manager Wayne Pearson said entrepreneurs and business executives are often impressed when invited to take a closer look at the benefits of locating or expanding a business in the region, which also offers Enterprise Zone incentives.

He said, “With high speed telecommunications, wide internet bandwidth, low cost utilities, affordable living costs, growing advanced educational opportunities geared toward business needs, a dependable and skilled workforce, and multi-modal transportation facilities, Jefferson County is an ideal location for business enterprises.

“On top of these benefits, recreational opportunities abound that make it a great place to live.”

As part of a coordinated transportation infrastructure upgrade plan, Madras Municipal Airport – a fast growing Category 4 airport for general aviation and business use – has also won Connect Oregon state funding to conduct major improvements, which are also slated to extend to additional navigation aids, runway/taxiway lighting, an automated weather observation building, new taxiway and ramp improvements.

Urban renewal district work under the auspices of the Madras Redevelopment Commission has also helped revitalize the downtown core area, including the upgrading of streetscapes, complete with bioswales to handle stormwater in environmentally sound ways.
Morgan said the work has enhanced the visual appeal of the community, and helped boost attractiveness to businesses downtown which include a long-awaited new five-screen cinema whose arrival has also improved the “entertainment component of livability” for Madras.

He added, “All these things are like foundation blocks of a pyramid, in our case geared towards building a healthy and vibrant Madras with amenities that residents can enjoy.

“Everything works together to help with the whole picture.

“Of course, no community has been immune to the recessionary impacts of the last few years, but all of the components that help us function as a complete community are here.

“Even in a down economy, we have added jobs on mainstreet with a number of businesses moving in (including Sonic, Taco Bell, KFC, Hearthside Books and Nana’s sugar free bakery) and while some of our heavier industry firms which are international in scope have scaled back, it now looks like they may be ramping back up and expanding workforce capacity.

“I am certainly optimistic for the future and think the community has worked creatively and diligently to create a springboard for future rewarding growth.”

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