(Symons Beef | Photo courtesy of EDCO)
A recent “Made in Jefferson County” tour organized by the local branch of Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) highlighted agriculture as a major driver of the local economy, together with the importance of the irrigation water that is vital to the success of that industry.
Business and community leaders gathered for a tour of Symons Beef Company and Poland Organic Dairy outside of Madras before reconvening for a locally-grown lunch courtesy of those purveyors, and to hear an update on EDCO’s recent progress in Jefferson County, as well as being encouraged to get involved in the organization’s annual membership drive.
Guest speaker Mike Britton, general manager of North Unit Irrigation District, said, “Jefferson County is really the breadbasket of Central Oregon.
“North Unit is one of eight irrigation districts in Central Oregon and has become a poster child for efficiency and conservation in serving primarily larger farms relying on crop production covering around 60,000 acres.
“There are some 2300 farms in Central Oregon, but Jefferson County has a major impact in accounting for 40 per cent of the agricultural jobs in the region.
“Irrigation is hugely important for the industry locally which supplies millions of people, including producing over 50 per cent of the world’s carrot seeds.”
EDCO Director for Jefferson County Janet Brown said, “Agriculture is very important to our economy. We are also actively engaged in trying to boost other sectors, including in manufacturing where the percentage of jobs nationally has dropped to just nine percent compared with 20 percent in 1960
“We have worked with an increasing diversity of companies and helped nurture various stages of growth.”
In the last year, Brown said highlights have included:
• GCL New Energy building two major 10Mw solar projects
• Keith Manufacturing/Keith Walking Floors building a new state-of-the-art headquarters housing the latest in equipment
• Erickson Aero Tanker providing next generation aerial firefighting jobs
• Erickson Aircraft Museum collection expansion
• Sierra Case Parts, a newer company EDCO has worked with, which makes metal parts for refrigeration equipment
• North West Green Panels, making greenhouses of all shapes, sizes and styles
• Daimler Trucks North America, with which EDCO faced competition for a flagship location from places as far flung as Brazil before landing its truck test track facility on a 100-acre site close to Madras Airport. The complex is now in its third stage of expansion
Brown added, “EDCO is doing more to help improve the local economy than it ever has in its 38-year history. Due to local support of Central Oregon communities, the organization now has Directors based throughout the region able to give more time and support to their community’s existing local primary employers and work to help attract new companies.”
Founded in 1981, EDCO is a non-profit corporation supported by private and public members and stakeholders with a mission to create a diversified local economy and a strong base of middle-class jobs in Central Oregon. To do this, its focus is on helping companies do the following:
Move. Attract and guide outside employers through the relocation process as a resource for regional data, incentives, talent, site selection and more.
Start. Mentor and advise scalable young companies from concept to exit on issues such as access to capital, critical expertise and strategy.
Grow. Partner with local traded-sector companies to help them grow and expand.
About North Unit Irrigation District
The North Unit Irrigation District is located in the Deschutes River Basin and supplies irrigation water to approximately 60,000 acres of farmland in Jefferson County. North Unit Irrigation District is a quasi-municipality under contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. In addition, the District is a part of the Deschutes Basin Board of Control, a consortium of eight irrigation districts and municipalities that collaborate on issues facing Central Oregon and water users. Its Mission Statement/primary focus is, To work together with the community and its partners to protect, enhance and deliver water to its customers in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.