MADRAS, OR -- One year after 100,000 people converged on Madras to watch the sky go dark in the middle of the day, Mayor Royce Embanks says the city is forever changed. With very few exceptions, like the robbery of a Madras bank, he believes the eclipse was great for the city.
This summer, several business owners organized a monthly event called “Downtown Park and Play," to re-create the community atmosphere that started with the eclipse. Mayor Embanks says, "Getting people downtown and interested in what’s going on gets them out on the street. And when they get out on the street, they stop in shops and buy things." The final Park and Play for the summer takes place the evening of September 6.
"The eclipse was a great opportunity for many of us that have businesses downtown because we had a lot of activity," says Embanks, "Even people in Madras walked into my shop and said, ‘wow! We didn’t know you were here; how long have you been doing this?’ I said, ‘ten years'." His art shop did a year’s worth of business in the few days surrounding August 21, 2017. And, he says the financial benefits and increase in tourism have continued, "We had a wonderful time; and we had very few events that were considered stressful or anything like that. Everybody was happy with what they got and when they left they sent hundreds of emails saying that. We got them from, ‘wow, this is really a friendly town; I want to come back.’ And some people have."
Embanks believes the positive eclipse publicity helped boost the city’s notoriety, resulting in more companies looking at the area. He tells KBND News a national truck stop chain plans to build its first Central Oregon facility in Madras. Love’s Travel Stop will feature a fast food restaurant and convenience store, "It’s going to employ 70 people because they’ve got a 24-hour operation; it’ll provide truckers on 97 an opportunity to get off, when there’s bad weather, or to spend the night if they want to catch up on their sleep time." The $11 million project is slated for just south of downtown, across from Bi-Mart and Burger King, in an area that Embanks says the city has struggled to develop. "It opens up that area for development, because we have to build a road in there. And then, once you establish that, we can go ahead and build some infrastructure in there and have some light industry and housing, that sort of thing." It's just one of several companies looking to expand in Madras. Dollar General is also considering a new store, and Daimler is looking to grow its existing test track facility.
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Photos: Madras, August 21, 2017