Subscribe to get tough, fair journalism seven days a week.
Subscribe today

Study could make case for expanded city limits


Of the Keizertimes

Only 7 percent of the Keizer labor force actually works in the city where they live.

A local economic opportunities analysis aims to provide specific suggestions for raising that number – and the final recommendations could conclude that the city simply doesn’t have the available land to make that happen.

Nine in 10 people leaving the city daily to work is hardly uncommon among bedroom communities, said Jerry Johnson, principal at Johnson Reid. His firm is contracted to perform the analysis, with help from a local task force.

“Most places really do aspire to become more balanced between jobs and housing, particularly in a property tax-reliant state like Oregon,” Johnson said.

He explained states and communities with sales taxes are able to capitalize better on residential areas, but that homes tend to need lots of services, but pay much less in taxes than commercial and industrial properties.

The task force’s first meeting was Wednesday evening, after press deadline. Sam Litke, the city’s senior planner, said the study will include recommendations for land needed to shift towards a more balanced local economy.

“At the conclusion of the study, I think there will need to be a discussion of expanding the urban growth boundary,” Litke said. “The regional analysis points in that direction.”

Part of the process is identifying community traits that could either hurt or help in recruiting business.

One obstacle both Keizer and Salem face are a higher rate of people older than 25 who do not have a high school diploma. In Keizer it’s 13 percent, while the state average is just 5 percent, according to the consultant’s findings.

“If I am attracting highly-educated people for a workforce, they’re people who clearly value education and are paying attention to the system for their family as well,” Johnson said, adding such a statistic doesn’t necessarily reflect on the local school system, but can create perception problems.

Johnson said attracting medical facilities is a realistic goal for Keizer.

“While you’re a bedroom community, that’s a sector that orients to where the residents live,” he said. “…It’s viable and plausible while providing great employment and good services.”

Litke said it makes sense not to compete with Salem, but to find a niche.

Check out the entire presentation below.