I am the managing owner of the company that owns the building at Third and Lyon where the Albany Visitors Association now resides. Over the past year we have spent about $50,000 upgrading the building, and we have several more upgrades planned for the next couple of years. This money has gone to local companies and Albany residents. Although we have never received CARA funds of any kind, we support the CARA program and believe it to be a valuable tool for urban renewal in Albany
Private companies like ours cannot afford to invest in Albany if the properties around us are falling apart and losing value.
When I was a kid in the 70’s, we would travel periodically to Albany to visit family, usually during the holidays. Albany was a standing joke in the Willamette Valley. The city was blighted – the downtown was falling apart and it was an eyesore. Downtown had been left solely in the hands of the private sector for 40 years prior to CARA. Apparently the private sector found nothing of value in downtown Albany, and chose to let it rot away. This is what free markets do – they invest in things they find valuable, and ignore things they don’t. I know this because it’s what I do every day.
Our community is not, however, strictly a free market. We place value on many things that we don’t leave to the private sector. Our biking and walking trails, city parks, community swimming pools, schools, public transportation, police, and firefighters – just to name a few. These are things that define us as a community. We take care of each other. Left to the private sector alone, many of our community features would not exist, because there is no profit to be had. And when you run a company, the profit margin is the bottom line.
CARA produces tangible results and augments the private sector. I personally know people who are employed downtown only because of a CARA project. Most of the downtown business owners likely will be hesitant to comment to anyone about CARA, in support or against, for fear of alienating one side or the other and driving away business. It is difficult to blame them when the citizenry has been told many things with little in the way of facts to back it up.
Local programs like CARA are easy to administer and oversee. If the public wants to see how the money has been spent, it is a simple task to go to City Hall and ask for that information. It is equally simple to get a meeting with the mayor or a City Council member to discuss concerns. We can all see what is going on, if we choose to do so. The information is accessible. Contrast this with the black holes that are our federal and state tax systems. Local programs like CARA will always be the most affordable, efficient, and transparent.
If the CARA program is done away with, I believe that Albany will slowly but surely fade into obscurity as the ugly stepchild between Lebanon and Corvallis. History is clear on this – without a community steward to oversee the maintenance of the downtown infrastructure, the city will deteriorate and fade away. CARA doesn’t displace or discourage the private sector’s involvement – CARA encourages it. And my company is proof positive of that fact.
Dave Baker is a software engineer and managing owner of DevMecca.com, an Albany software development company specializing in business efficiency solutions.