Deschutes County

Sisters holds 'economic summit' to boost viability

Mayor turns to city for ideas; 150 attend to take part

Sisters to host economic summit

SISTERS, Ore. - More than 150 people attended a meeting Tuesday night in Sisters to brainstorm ideas to boost the town's economy.

The ideas ranged from a lift to the top of Black Butte to a road from Sisters to Mt. Bachelor.

For about an hour and a half, those in the audience gave feedback on what they would like to see.

The ideas were written down on large pieces of paper and placed on the walls of the Sisters Middle School. Once everyone who wanted to speak got a chance, each person was given five stickers to place on the ideas they liked best.

The city plans to see if those ideas are viable and something they can act on.

One idea that had the most 'stickers' was an art and/or science center.

Discussion over a proposed amphitheater in Sisters caused a large uproar a few weeks ago. Now the mayor is looking to the people for ideas on how to further advance the city economically.

Sisters Mayor Brad Boyd said Tuesday they need to create community assets to boost the city's viability.

The purpose of Tuesday night's economic summit was to open up dialogue between city leaders and the public.

"We want to back the conversation up and say to people, 'Okay, if not this, then what do you want to see?' We're listening," Boyd said.

Boyd wanted to hear from Sisters residents after a proposed amphitheater received negative feedback.

Business owner Chris Wilder is encouraged by the public's engagement, but believes whatever new amenity is chosen needs to be vetted properly.

"Whatever is chosen, if there's a new venue chosen, that it is economically viable," Wilder said. "That it's not draining on the community, financially or resource-wise."

Boyd said he wants to create an asset that will add to the city, but also said it's ultimately up to the people.

"A percentage of the population wants nothing, and we want them to be able to voice that," Boyd said. "Just as well as the percentage of the population that wants other ideas."

Terry Cheatham is a part of the population that wants growth.

"We need to grow," Cheatham said. "We always need to be moving forward,  otherwise you automatically go backwards. So, it's a good thing to grow and change."

According to the Oregon Department of Transportation, four million vehicles travel through Sisters every year, but the city found that only 4 percent of those cars are stopping and using the amenities Sisters has to offer -- a number the mayor would like to see increase.

"People may argue that that's been the case for everyone during the Great Recession," Boyd said. "We can sit on our hands, hoping it gets better, or we can take action. I'm someone who believes in taking action."

Wilder doesn't want the city to do anything detrimental to the community, and hopes the new asset fits in with the city's Western theme.

"When in doubt, remain the same, but I think we need to encourage things into helping us out economically," Wilder said.

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