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The Spirit of Independence

Small town. Big vision.

What happens when a community embraces its strengths and goes all-in on a bold vision for the future? Local businesses grow and thrive. Newcomers settle in. Families set down roots. Schools get stronger, and young people look at their hometown and see a world of possibility.

That’s the story unfolding in Independence, Oregon, where an active and engaged community has laid the foundation for a 21st century economy, without ever losing sight of the small town’s unique spirit.

“In Independence, we always look at the big picture,” says economic development director, Shawn Irvine. “And Pacific Power has been a great partner in that, helping us create the infrastructure we need to build the future we envision for ourselves.”

 

Partnering for a thriving future

“This is exactly where we want to be – working side-by-side with our communities as they build their own futures,” says Diana Knous, regional business manager at Pacific Power. “We’ve been part of these communities for over 100 years, so we’re dedicated to their prosperity. When they thrive, so do we. It’s a shared success.”

For Shawn, the mark of a successful community isn’t just the number of businesses that open their doors, it’s the quality of life people are able to enjoy. “You’re not just chasing smoke stacks,” he says. “You have to have a high-quality community for true economic development. That means good parks, that means good schools, that means a great downtown, that means an active, engaged citizenry.”

That spirit of smart, community-minded investment is what led Independence to pioneer a first-of-its-kind, fiber-to-home broadband network. This was ten years ago, at a time when broadband fiber was available in only a few large cities – and only for customers willing to pay a high premium. Independence saw a way to create something that would help families keep up with changing technology while attracting new jobs.

It worked. This town of 10,000 people is now home to a large call center, an aerial drone start-up that’s helping farmers monitor their crops and a 3D printer business that’s run out of the town’s co-working space.

With this kind of energy, it’s no wonder people are moving back to Independence and starting their own businesses. “When I moved back here from Colorado, I wasn’t planning to stay,” says Kate Schwarzler, owner of Indy Commons, the town’s co-working hub. “But then I started noticing all of the entrepreneurship around there, and I thought, I could build something here.”

Embracing the right kind of change

For Kate, and for a lot of the people in this town, change is a good thing, as long as you step out and embrace it. Which is probably why Independence was first in line when Pacific Power announced its smart meter rollout plans. The way they see it, smart meters are just another part of being a smart rural community. “We’re embracing technology, we’re embracing broadband,” says Shawn. “And Pacific Power, by deploying smart meters, is really buying into that.”

“Things are always changing, that’s not the question,” says Kate. “The question is, are you going to just sit back and see what change does to you, or are you going to get out there and meet it, so you can be part of shaping what happens next?”

For the City of Independence, in partnership with Pacific Power, the answer to that question is very clear.

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