Valerie Ryan’s piece struck a nerve with me.

I love this place, Clatsop County, the North Coast of Oregon.

Her proposal was that we import people with money – tourists – in order to support our local economy.

I propose that we tap our own local and affluent population in order to support our economy. How can we do that? By appreciating what we have here, treasuring and nourishing it, in order to produce jobs that are ecologically sustainable enough to support a family and that develop the hearts and minds of the people working them.

We are blessed with stunning natural beauty: clean air, forests, fields, oceans, rivers and beaches. We have a tradition of jobs related to extracting natural resources: fishing, logging and farming. These jobs promote an intimate connection of the people with the place.

Tourists come to visit because of the natural beauty, but the relationship is transient and unpredictable, as is the business revenue and wages associated with it. Jobs related to the tourist industry do not usually provide security for the people in them. Food security, shelter security, job security, health care security and education security for all ages all are essential elements of vital communities. Tourism doesn’t provide that kind of security.

The service economy is fine for entry-level jobs, but there’s not much of a way to progress to a good life, satisfying and productive for the person, the family and the community.

Most tourists are wonderful guests. They honor and respect the local residents and the place. They are gracious and graceful in their presence here. But some apparently have a bad sense of direction. They act as if they were in Disneyland, with everyone here responsible for the amusement, catering to their whims. And don’t even get me started on the drunks with bottle rockets.

It’s time to have a series of community conversations about who we are and the world we are creating for our children and grandchildren. It’s time to talk about collaborating for the common good, so that we can all flourish here. A truism is that we need not plan to fail; we only need to fail to plan.

Let’s look at what we already have, in terms of social capital. What skills, talents and abilities already live in our residents? How can we build an economic infrastructure that makes use of who we are, what we have, where we live, in order to produce businesses that create value.

Some use the phrase “lifestyle entrepreneur” to describe the creative class, people with hearts and brains already engaged in making wealth, who choose where to live based on the amenities that they value. Smart promotion of our amenities will attract investment by these individuals.

We need to export value-added goods and services if we are to thrive in the coming years. So how do we make sense of what serves us best to export?

We can expand the realm of the possible and the actual if we conduct a series of community conversations all around the place we live – in cities and villages, in granges and community centers, in schools and libraries.

We can tap the wisdom and work together if we ask good questions and listen well to each other.

We can begin by asking our planning entities, the boards and commissions around the county, to get involved in sponsoring and cooperating to listen to constituents, including students in all levels of schools, from elementary to community college.

People of all ages and backgrounds must be involved. This matters to all of us, and all of us, insofar as possible, need to be talking about what matters and creating hope and then reality for our future. We’re in this together.

Whatever we develop must meet three criteria: ecological sustainability, spiritually satisfying and socially just. That means it works for everybody, with nobody left out.

In business, a “triple bottom line” approach works, as evidenced by the success of Craft3. It’s not enough just to make money. We must take into account the effect on the world around us of what we do and don’t do.

And the work must be soul-satisfying. It must speak to the deepest levels of human need and satisfaction, if it is to honor this place and who we can be in it.

One thing we could do is develop a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) for affordable housing. That REIT could be governed by a Community Development Corporation, governed by member-owners, a business model that works well for food cooperatives.

The cost of doing nothing is huge. We can’t build enough prisons or treatment facilities to hold those who have lost hope in their capacity to contribute constructively to the general society. We can do things better, and smarter and more generously than we have talked about or done so far.

Lianne Thompson lives in Arch Cape and serves on the Clatsop County Planning Commission.

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