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As a relatively new resident of Troutdale (having moved here and established my business in downtown Troutdale about a year and a half ago), I read last Friday’s opinion piece by Matt Wand with considerable interest.

I was aware of many, though not all, of the potential lost opportunities that Matt cited.

Though still a newcomer to Troutdale, my wife Penny and I dove into local community activities almost immediately after arriving here. We are both active in the West Columbia Gorge Chamber of Commerce, where I am currently president.

Our engagement was driven by our realization that Troutdale has extraordinary potential to evolve in directions that will benefit both local citizens and the entire East County. We also were motivated by the many wonderful local people whom we met, noting their love and ardor for their community. Penny and I really want to see Troutdale come into its own.

Since my arrival, I have seen renewed solidarity and support between the City Council and our local Chamber. This has made it possible for the chamber to focus more of its energy and resources on tourism promotion and service to our member businesses, both “job 1” for a chamber such as ours.

The city has sponsored some wonderful professionally directed visioning sessions with its citizens and government representatives.

Those sessions have helped the town crystallize its desires for its future. Now, it’s time to take the next steps and deal with the planning that will convert dreams and aspirations into reality. I’ve seen genuine interest from council members in tackling that hard work.

Both the Eastwinds development project and the Discovery Block have extraordinary potential to serve as seeds for our local growth. Both are complex projects, entailing clarity of vision as to tenants to be courted, facilities to be built, etc.

Both will require close collaboration between city and developers to ensure that the results are a “win-win-win” for business, for city government as public stewards, and for the citizens.

Still, the strong potential is there, and waiting to be embraced and nurtured. It’s great to have that kind of running room.

As someone who often helps serve our many visitors from far and near in the chamber’s Visitor Center, I regularly hear how desirable our visitors deem this area to be. Some of them solicit the chamber’s help in exploring relocation here.

So, I am not overly afraid of our potential for losing “many of our best and brightest young people.”

Yes, we cannot become complacent, and we need to ensure continued motion in directions that will bolster our attractiveness — and we’re doing that.

My perspective is that rather than it being “time for the city to get out of the way and let our town thrive,” I’d like to think that it’s time for us to forge the resolve between city, businesses and citizens in actively seeking to realize our potential.

Many of the people I regularly see are committed to that. And I believe that we can get there, together. Let’s take up the challenge, in earnest, and focus on our future, rather than crash into a lamp post because we’re fixated on what’s in the rearview mirror.

Claude Cruz is co-owner (with his wife, Penny) and lead designer for Marco Polo Designs, an art-glass jewelry designer and producer in downtown Troutdale. Claude also is president of the West Columbia Gorge Chamber of Commerce. Claude is a 35-year veteran of the semiconductor industry. He has two grown children who (sadly for them) live elsewhere, as do Penny’s two children.

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