La Pine living by new motto: 'Small Town, Bright Future'

City creating own economic development formula

POSTED: 5:31 PM PST November 20, 2012    UPDATED: 6:04 PM PST November 20, 2012 
LA PINE, Ore. -

La Pine is in the process of changing its image -- but it hopes to maintain that small-town feeling.

City officials say the future looks bright, and they have some ideas to make it that way.

City Manager Steve Hasson told NewsChannel 21 this week that there is no owner's manual that comes with a new city, so officials are making it up as they go.

He gave us a whole list of projects the city has completed or are just getting underway right now.

And one of the big projects is creating jobs -- the same goal of just about any city.

"This sign is illustrative of our community," said Hasson, pointing to the La Pine welcome sign. "We have some tenants that we abide by and framing who we are about to be."

The sign says it all: "small town, bright future."

And for the city of La Pine, officials are sticking by that motto.

Hasson said they are trying to create a different identity for a city that many travelers passing through see as simply a short stretch of Highway 97.

"Frame our communities so that when you are in it, you know that you are in it," Hasson said. "And so we are going to have signs all along the five miles."

About 20 or 30 signs will now read Ashton Eaton Boulevard, honoring the Olympic gold-medal decathlete, who first competed in track as a La Pine youngster.

Eaton is a role model for youth - a big group the city hopes will stick around.

"We got a lot of great young qualified students graduating from our high school," said Mayor Ken Mulenex. "They're voting with their feet, because there's not jobs around here."

Mulenex says economic development is a major effort for the city.

"If we don't get this in place, we will just be further behind the ball as we go down the road," Mulenex said.

The city is in the process of creating its own economic development formula with the help of other agencies, including EDCO, Economic Development of Central Oregon.

"We need to bring jobs," Mulenex said. "We need to bring that level -- mind you, we don't want factories all around it, but we do need a certain mixture of business and pleasure."

The city currently has 300 acres of industrial land deemed "shovel-ready" east of City Hall.

"I see the future growing to a point where we've got the services we need," Mulenex said. "We've got the level of services that people want. We've got family-wage jobs."

Maybe taking a page from the Prineville playbook -- another small town that's brought big business (like Facebook and Apple) but still kept to its roots.

"We want to maintain that small-town feel, even if we get big," Hasson said. "We want you to feel like you are in Mayberry RFD, and it does have a bright future."

Looking to bring fresh new ideas into the mix, La Pine has added a high school student to serve on city council.

The school has already selected a student who's volunteered. Officials say its just another way to bring the community together for a bright future.