City Council has placed a priority for economic development a second year. As part of my outreach, I continue to met with local businesses to see how we can make West Linn more business friendly. Here is a story posted in the Tidings posted on May 2, recapping our visit to Dahlgren.
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In early 2013, the West Linn City Council identified economic development as a priority, directing staff to focus energy and resources on creating a friendlier and more vibrant business environment in the city.
A primary council goal is to modify codes and processes to remove regulatory and financial barriers and incentivize positive community economic efforts. Chris Kerr, West Linn’s economic development director, is leading this effort and is assisted by the economic development committee, a volunteer citizen group.
To best remove regulatory and financial barriers, the city must first understand the difficulties encountered by those seeking to navigate West Linn development codes and processes. Councilor Thomas Frank and Kerr began conducting outreach visits to local businesses to learn about their experiences with the city. This series will highlight these visits with local business owners and examine the challenges they seek to solve or address.
On April 3, Frank and Kerr met with Kris Dahlgren and Alex Kachirisky of Dahlgren Footwear, a family-owned, outdoor and casual sock manufacturer based in West Linn. The company was started in 1978 by Dahlgren’s parents, Ray and Diane, and all Dahlgren socks are made in the United States. The Dahlgren brand is competitive in the marketplace, differentiating itself through its patented technology and the unique blend of merino and alpaca wool used in production. Dahlgren is primarily a business-to-business operation, working with national and international distributors, but also manages a small online sales business.
Dahlgren, the company’s president, was recently honored among top executives from companies like Nike, Eddie Bauer and The North Face. She was awarded a “40 Under Forty” award from Sporting Goods Business, which recognizes young executives making a difference in their fields before their 40 birthdays.
The meeting between the city and Dahlgren revealed that the company has plans to scale up. Currently operating out of their home, Dahlgren and Kachirisky want to keep their business in West Linn, but see a need for additional and affordable office space within the city. The couple requires a more professional and corporate meeting location to host clients and to make Dahlgren’s external appearance consistent with its operational and financial professionalism. Dahlgren and Kachirisky also expressed interest in the idea of a cooperative workspace, a place that could serve as a midpoint between working out of their home and shouldering the high cost of retail space alone. The need for increased access to capital and the opportunity for local business networking were also topics of discussion.
The city of West Linn recognizes that home-based businesses play a significant role in the local economy. Based on 2010 census figures, West Linn has the second highest percentage of people who work at home in the state at 8.9 percent. Lake Oswego led with 10.9 percent of the city’s population working at home.
These outreach visits and the conversations they generate serve as a valuable tool for the city’s economic development department. If you operate a business in West Linn and have ideas to share about the city council’s goal to reduce regulatory and financial barriers, visit westlinnideas.com to take an online survey. Find out more about Dahlgren Footwear at dahlgrenfootwear.com, and stay tuned for next week’s article featuring news from a visit with Polar Systems Inc.