I was recently asked to speak at a local service club about what Albany will be like in five years, and I opened the talk by admitting that I don’t really know. I’m Albany’s city manager, and my focus is on trying to efficiently and effectively deliver the services our city council has determined are necessary to the health of the community. Part of that job is trying to anticipate future conditions, so I made the following points about where I see the community going between now and 2020:
- Albany has grown steadily over the past 30+ years, and there is good evidence it will continue to do so over the next five years. If the past is a reliable guide, we can expect to add people equal to the current combined populations of Tangent and Millersburg during the next five years. Our population is likely to be more diverse and probably a little older. Currently, Albany’s average age of residents is slightly lower than the state’s as a whole; but we are adding a substantial number of residential units for seniors and that could (not necessarily will) change the mix.
- We will continue to see closure of some retail stores, just as we will see many new openings. The retail market nationally is volatile, and shopping habits are changing. I believe we may see more locally owned specialty shops and perhaps less national chain stores.
- Crime will continue to decline in Albany. We have seen some significant reductions in crime in the recent past, and I think that trend is likely to continue if we maintain our Strategic Plan commitment to keeping Albany safe.
- Albany’s economy will continue to improve with more, better paying jobs. Local industries are currently expanding, and the presence of both LBCC and Oregon State put Albany in a good position to take advantage of this trend. Obviously, what happens nationally will affect Albany for good or ill.
- Albany will become more a center for health care as new facilities are built and new professionals move here because of them. Our position on Interstate 5 makes Albany a good choice for new investment, not only in health care, but in other service areas as well.
- Affordability and income disparity will become even bigger challenges as those with desirable skills and education will command bigger salaries while those who do not keep pace will see fewer opportunities for income growth. Albany is making a unique effort to educate local students and residents for available work opportunities, but success is not guaranteed.
None of my observations are particularly daring. Most are based on what has happened here over the past few decades. I see Albany as a better place to live than it was in the past, and I hope future generations will see the same outcome. Health care, education, amenities such as restaurants and shopping opportunities, crime rates, and, yes, even the smell have improved in recent times. These trends will continue, however, only if we make the difficult, self-sacrificing decisions to invest in Albany that those who preceded us had the willingness to do.