Editorial: Going it alone on enterprise zone is best course for Lebanon

We appreciate that the Lebanon City Council and staff wants to establish an enterprise zone for Lebanon.

As they pointed out in their Feb. 14 meeting, reported on page 5 of this issue, the way the current arrangement works can be cumbersome for businesses who wish to apply for financial incentives.

The South Santiam Enterprise Zone, of which Lebanon is presently a member, also includes the cities of Albany, Millersburg, Lyons, Scio and Tangent, as well as portions of Linn County. If a business applies for tax exemption benefits in Albany, for example, the matter must also go before each of the other entities for approval.

Not only does this waste time and resources of the business that is applying, it’s a waste of city staff time and resources.

Mayor Paul Aziz noted last month that the Lebanon City Council convened for the sole purpose of approving an item for the South Santiam Enterprise Zone that wasn’t even located  in Lebanon.

Time and resources aside, things get even more sticky when the entities involved have to make decisions involving two of their members who are trying to lure the same business to their community.

The Albany Millersburg Economic Development Corporation and the City of Lebanon recently competed for a transmodal load facility, a yard where all manner of materials could be transferred from trucks to railroad cars for shipment. Quite obviously, the community that lands this stands to see jobs and money in spades.

We’re not taking sides on which location should house the facility but it is worth pointing out that Linn County committed $275,000 to AMEDC to help secure the location in Millersburg.

In scrutinizing the situation that led to the council’s Feb. 14 discussion, at best it appears communication has been lacking among the six-member enterprise zone and two members were working together without consulting the others.

At worst, a good ’ol boy system spawned a partnership between two entities and Lebanon was left out in the cold.

Either way, we think it is in Lebanon’s best interest to go it alone.

It’s almost ludicrous to state the obvious, but Lebanon has made significant progress economically in the last 10 years, even during the recession, by canny foresight and planning. A lot of that has been the result of going it alone.

While going solo certainly seems to have benefits, Mayor Paul Aziz’s caution that it is incumbent to maintain neighborly relations with surrounding communities is worth keeping in mind.

We think it is  important  to do what we can to mend, develop and maintain friendly relationships with neighboring cities and the county.

Factoring in the interests of others while maintaining a course that benefits Lebanon will help generate good will that may pay off down the road.

Last, but not least, we certainly appreciate the candid and difficult discussion city staff and councilors were willing to have in a public meeting.