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Pybus Market is a work in progress, we learned from Mike Walker

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I never get tired of listening to civic leaders talk about the importance of giving back to the community and working together to make things happen. These are the people who  set aside their own personal interests in favor of making a difference for the long term.   

On Thursday night, we invited a small group of individuals to hear entrepreneur Mike Walker and a panel of three other leaders talk about the impact of Pybus Market on the economy of our valley. Along with Walker, we heard from Pybus General Manager Steve Robinson, Linda Haglund of the Wenatchee Downtown Association and Mark Spurgeon of the Economic Development District.   

For an audience, we asked young leaders under 35 who were honored by our Wenatchee Valley Business World this summer, plus a number of local contributors to our Community Connections effort as well as individuals associated with the Emerging Leaders Allance, a group of mostly Latino leaders in the valley.   

Walker talked about how much the community meant to he and his wife Joann.  Over the course of their lives, they have been successful in building a variety of businesses and he credited the community with supporting those efforts. In their estate planning, he told the group, they decided they'd rather make a difference today with their Pybus Market contribution than do so after their deaths.   

And, of course, Mike admitted he needed a project to keep him busy. And what a project. The $10 million that has gone into the market has become a destination the likes of which we have not had for visitors from out of town.   

Robinson told the crowd that they're still on a steep learning curve in how to operate the facility and that they are implementing community suggestions, such as the development of Pybus University (affectionately called PU), and something they're calling the Pybus Entertainment Center (PEC), where they will experiment with concerts. The audience did recommend that they might want to improve on their acronyms!  

Haglund talked about the spirit of collaboration that has characterized the effort, despite some concerns from downtown merchants that Pybus might be a competitive threat. The moving of the farmer's market to Pybus did impact traffic, but efforts to connect downtown with Pybus are continuing.    

Spurgeon described  Pybus as a game-changer for the valley in terms of creating a new reasons for people to come to town.   

The audience had plenty of suggestions for the Pybus leaders, including finding creative ways to engage the Latino community and creating additional family opportunities, such as a place for kids to play while their parents are enjoying a cup of coffee.   

We plan to host more of these kinds of community-centered events to bring people face-to-face with important issues and people. If we're going to build a stronger community, building additional relationships is of critical importance.   

We took an easy topic and wrestled it to the ground. We'll look for more challenging issues in the coming months. Have suggestions or ideas? Email me at rwoods@wenatcheeworld.com

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