Big Tasks, Lengthy Solutions: Local Growth

by Justin Aufdermauer
Executive Director

I’m back with the Chamber Chatter’s second installment of our “Big Tasks, Lengthy Solutions” series.

Because it’s been a while since part one — hey, lengthy solutions take time to figure out! — I want to start with a quick reminder about what this series is all about. The quick, one-sentence rundown goes like this: The Chamber and our partners are working on a number of long-term projects that are important to our community but aren’t solvable overnight. This includes topics like housing, homelessness, bioswales, downtown renovations and local growth. Today, I’m diving into that last item on the list.

In the last decade as Chamber executive director, I have heard so many great ideas surface in for how we can improve the quality of life here by growing our local economy, our community and our local amenities.  Some of these ideas have even gotten a small foothold, with official meetings or early events. But often they don’t last long because there was no investment in human capital, such as a staffed position to sustain and move the idea forward.

I wrote recently about our new Young Pros Tillamook group, and I think it serves as a good example here, too. We’ve tried to start this program in the past with a volunteer leadership team. After a handful of great events and lots of excitement from young professionals here, the group eventually fizzled out because the volunteer leaders just didn’t have a personal or professional capacity to keep things going.

It’s no fault of theirs. Life happens. Some of the volunteers moved, and some of them took on other, equally important projects in the community. But as leadership or life situations changed, there was no clear person to take over and carry on the group. This time around, we’re dedicating a paid staff person to oversee Young Pros (along with our new Tillamook Chamber Community Foundation), so that there is organizational continuity.

The big takeaway from Young Pros and other big ideas like it is that we can’t fuel big ideas and local growth through volunteerism alone. I love that our community shows up and supports each other. But we can’t keep tapping into the same pool of volunteers, asking them to take on more and more projects and spread themselves thin, then expect those programs to be sustainable in the long run.

Instead, we need to build in staffed leadership positions to plan and manage our big ideas. And we need to find the capacity in our organizations to take on and fund those new staff members.

That’s easier said than done. It’s a lengthy solution, after all. It’s no secret that hiring has become increasingly difficult in the last couple of years; it’s hard to find a business or nonprofit that isn’t hiring these days. Before we can create new positions, we need to be able to fill existing spots, right?

There might be another solution we can consider. What if we can create synergy and efficiency between nonprofits, governments and businesses to create new capacity? The Tillamook Chamber Community Foundation is in the beginning stages of starting a program called the Stable Table to do just that. We are very close to hiring a facilitator focused on bringing together organizations from across the county. Through conversation and collaboration, we might be able to identify ways an organization can shift some of its tasks or roles to a partner already doing that work, so it can take on a new position, program or project. The Stable Table also will bring together some of the county’s greatest minds and leaders, who are sure to find out-of-the-box solutions for hiring or creating new leadership roles.

My hope is that some of those leaders from organizations, governments and businesses are reading this column with enthusiasm for what we can accomplish together. If you are, don’t lose that fire; we will need it in the next couple months.

And if you would like to know more about this vision, don’t hesitate to contact me at