I've been hustling around meeting with lots of people in the last couple of weeks. The majority of them are small business owners. The majority of them are talking about the same thing:
Moving Roseburg forward.
Many people around town are ready to shed Roseburg's past reputation as the capitol of Oregon for everything bad. Meth, abuse and poverty have colored the way the rest of the state views people from Douglas County.
Just recently I was introduced to a group of optimistic entreprenuers who have made Roseburg their home. They are succesful business people who talk about what's 'next' instead of what 'is'.
We see crime. They see wine.
We see hollow, old, sad buildings. They see revitalization projects
We wonder who the next leaders will be. They are already leading.
They occupy downtown office space and organize things like the Young Entreprenuer Society of the Umpqua Valley and Startup Weekend (April 24-26) in order to encourage more people to launch businesses of their own.
They are generous with their advice and accepting to new people who are flirting with the idea of launching their own startups.
They connect with other energetic and optimistic people at the Umpqua Small Business Center and they look into the future together.
I like what they see.
This group can see a Roseburg where newcomers invest in rebuilding the neglected downtown commercial real estate property that depresses locals who remember what those places looked like before they closed.
They see a Roseburg where vibrant businesses replace vacant ones.
They believe they can work with local government agencies rather than against them in order to build something great. Something unique and beautiful.
What it means is that one of these days, someone with big money and similar optimism will buy one of those empty downtown shells and do something amazing. Something that makes Roseburg famous for something good.
When it happens, it might not be obvious right away. It might take time before we realize the value of the new addition. What is really exciting is this: the person who makes that reputation-tipping investment might already be here.
At some point, maybe at a future meeting of the YES group or a Startup Weekend, someone might ask that person "Why did you choose Roseburg?"
He or she might look around and say "to be around the optimistic people in this room."
I'm glad to be in the room with them.
I like what they see.