CHINOOK, Wash. - A treasure trove of information about Clatsop and Pacific counties will be unveiled later this month.

It comes in a study commissioned by the Ford Foundation to help communities in the United States better understand themselves.

Thanks to the involvement of John Berdes at ShoreBank Enterprise Cascadia, the targeted communities included the Lower Columbia.

The results will be explained at a meeting Sept. 16. Some details are being highlighted in The Daily Astorian in advance of the event to whet residents' appetites ahead of the meeting.

The project began when the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire received a grant from the Ford Foundation to work on ways to better understand the current state of affairs in rural America. To accomplish this, the Institute conducted in-depth surveys in seven rural regions across America in 2007.

At the request of Berdes, one of the survey areas was Clatsop and Pacific, Wash., counties. The results and analysis will be presented at 6 p.m. Sept. 16 at the Fort Columbia Theater.

Mike Dickerson, programs director at ShoreBank Enterprise Cascadia, invited the public to attend.

"We know so little factual information about ourselves, how we came to call this place home, what we think about our shared futures. Making the best decisions about the future generally requires combining a deep understanding of our past with relevant knowledge about our present, and that makes this survey work really important at the mouth of the river," he said.

Some of the questions asked included:

? Have you always lived in this area, or did you move here from somewhere else?

? If your own teenage child, or the child of a close friend, asked you for advice, would you recommend that they should plan to stay in this town as an adult, or move away for opportunities somewhere else?

? Have conservation or environmental rules that restrict development generally been a good thing for your community, a bad thing, or have they had no effect?

? Do you know anyone from this area who is serving or has served in the

military in Iraq or Afghanistan?

? During the last seven calendar years did you lose a job or leave one because your plant or company closed or moved, your position or shift was abolished, insufficient work, or some other similar reason?

? Based on what you see of the situation today, do you think that 10 years from now, your community will be a better place to live, a worse place, or about the same?

? Would you say that you and your family are worse off financially, about the same or better off than you were five years ago?

Chris Colocousis, a member of the Carsey Institute faculty, will make the presentation. He will compare survey results from the other similar-sized target areas in Maine, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Alabama, Colorado, Kansas, and Mississippi.

"The survey results suggest that there are really four different rural Americas: persistently poor places, declining resource-dependent areas, amenity-rich areas experiencing growth, and places that exhibit a mixture of resource-based decline and amenity-driven growth," Colocousis said. "The Lower Columbia area represents just such a mixture of growth and decline."

Peter Novak, ShoreBank Enterprise Cascadia's senior lender for the Lower Columbia, said selecting Fort Columbia for the presentation was no accident. "The place that was surveyed included two counties in two states that depend on each other to support one rural economy," Novak said. "Fort Columbia is easily accessible and mutually relevant to the component parts of the place called Lower Columbia."

Tags