Economic Development for Central Oregon Hosts Workforce Development for Prineville/Crook County Event


(Photo above: A welder at Buckstop Truckware | courtesy of EDCO)

Held at Meadow Lakes in Prineville recently the event topic was workforce development for Crook County, and the focus was on how the various partners in Prineville and Central Oregon are working together to improve efforts in bringing and retaining companies to the area, as well as addressing the issue of providing a skilled workforce to fill those positions.

“You can give someone a fish, and you feed them for a meal. You teach them how to fish, and they will feed themselves forever–unless there is nowhere to fish.”

These were the opening remarks made by Prineville/Crook County Economic Development (EDCO) Advisory Member Greg Lambert.

“That’s what EDCO is about. Our local economic development effort here and regionally is to provide places for people to fish,” added Lambert.

EDCO is a non-profit organization dedicated to prosperous communities and quality jobs for Central Oregonians. Their mission is to create a diversified local economy and a strong base for middle class jobs in Central Oregon. They guide employers outside the region through the relocation process as a resource for regional data, incentives, talent and site selection.

“We accomplish that vision for the region by encouraging companies to move here, or to set up satellites operations in our area,” commented Caroline Ervin, EDCO Prineville manager.

“We are focusing specifically on the traded sector—companies that sell the majority of their goods and services outside of our area. Those are considered primary jobs—they bring money into our local economy.”

Ervin highlighted a local business success story for Buckstop Truckware, that manufactures front-end replacements for heavy-duty bumpers. EDCO enabled them to secure their current building site and introduced them to community resources. In their new location, they now control their manufacturing process 100 percent and have a real appreciation for the community.

She went on to say that EDCO has a three-part focus, in relation to job development, which is move, start and grow.

“The move refers to working with companies to recruit them to our area or to establish or set up operations here,” Ervin said. “Start is helping individuals to start new companies or by encouraging entrepreneurism. There are a number of resources available including a stable of experts who will work pro-bono with entrepreneurs by volunteering their expertise and guidance to help companies develop and grow. The Stable of Experts Network consists of highly accomplished, seasoned professionals with a passion for start-ups and small business.

“The third part is grow and grow is really critical. That is working with existing companies, and part of that involves retaining them here, and making sure that if they are here—we want to keep them here—and help them with expansion and connect them with resources to be able to grow their business and hire more employees.”

She indicated that this is where the majority of job growth comes from.

Other resources that provide some incentives for businesses in Crook County includes enterprise zones for businesses that are investing $50,0000 or more and adding 10 percent to their workforce or one employee—whichever is greater.

In Crook County, the average firm employs approximately eight individuals. Crook County’s business environment is comprised primarily of small employers with exceptions such as Contact Industries, Les Schwab, St. Charles Health System, Brasada Ranch and Facebook Data Center. Other traditional top employers include the City of Prineville, The County, The Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service and the local school district.

During the course of the event there were four panelists including COCC Prineville Campus Coordinator Suzie Kristensen, OSU Cascades Instructor–HDFS, Internship Coordinator Bruce Petersen, Executive Director for Cascades East Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Jeff Papke and Bruce Emerson, who oversees the manufacturing technology center at the Redmond COCC Campus.

Kristensen discussed how the Prineville Campus is addressing workforce development, which is very high on their list of priorities. Currently, students can earn an AAOT Degree at the Prineville campus in two years. In addition to the many college credit classes, the Prineville Campus also offers community learning classes, adult basic skills for college preparation, GED Prep/College Prep, and high school programs. Crook County High School partners with COCC to offer an Advanced Diploma Option, as well as a number of college classes that students can take advantage of for a dual high school/college credit.

Prineville campus offers a small business development center, which provides many opportunities for Prineville, with no cost for advisory. There are many non-credit business classes offered to help students improve their skills. Currently Prineville is the only satellite campus that can do video broadcast classes.

Kristensen identified the biggest barriers for students in Crook County as transportation, child care and financial hardships. They have identified these in the past four years and are working to remove the barriers.

Emerson indicated that Redmond is aiming to provide added technical skills and he is trying to reach deeper into the high school CTE programs looking to partner and leverage programs at the high school level.

The Redmond Education Technology Center includes a 34,000-square-foot building which houses technology-centered programs that allow residents to train for present and future family-wage jobs. One of the programs includes a two-year degree option in Automotive Technology in Electronics and Diagnostics (TED. This degree will emphasize electric and hybrid power systems, clean diesel and on-board vehicle networking, and knowledge needed to repair the continually- evolving electronics in today’s vehicles. The technology center includes the Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence and Development (CEED).

Papke indicated that there are 8,000 workers employed in health care in Crook, Jefferson and Deschutes counties.

“It’s an amazing amount of folks who work in health care,” commented Papke.

In 2020, there is a projection of 20 million new jobs in the health care field—equaling a 21 percent growth rate. One of the efforts that AHEC is working towards is giving students opportunities to explore the health care field in Central Oregon. Currently 30 students in Ryan Cochran’s Health Occupation class at Crook County High School do job shadows at St. Charles Health System—including departments such as labs, pharmacy and the various departments at the hospital.

Papke emphasized that there is a growing demand in the information technology portion of the health care industry.
Lambert concluded that EDCO and its partners seek to remove the “stop signs” and barriers to economic growth and job development and reduce them to speed bumps—and eventually remove the barriers altogether.

As of March 2015, the Crook County unemployment rate was 8.9 percent—lowest since June 2008.

Average sale price of an existing single family home in Crook County in 2014: $163,587.

From 1990 to 2014, Crook County’s population went from 14,111 to 20,780. Projection for 2025 is 22,404.

Enrollment in 2015 for Crook County schools was 3,391.


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