Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) has moved forward with the hiring of Ryan Culp as the Sunriver/La Pine Area Economic Development Director.
Culp will be responsible for executing the plans and programs of business retention, expansion and recruitment within the La Pine and Sunriver communities and assisting in the creation and retention of traded-sector employment in South Deschutes County.
Additionally, Culp will work with area leaders to assist in projects, initiatives and activities that directly or indirectly make the community an easy, cost effective and friendly place to do business.
EDCO focuses on job creation and new capital investment in every community in the tri-county region and has specific targets for each area.
“Our three-year goals include 13 measurable metrics for Sunriver-La Pine including job creation and total payroll, capital investment, done deals, assists and specific projects to be completed including branding, surveying companies and development of a business resource list.
Overall, these goals, strategies and tactics are designed to grow the local economy in South County by creating new and better career opportunities for residents,” said Roger Lee, director of marketing and communications at EDCO.
South County has experienced several recent economic successes. Sunriver Brewing expanded their operations by adding capacity with a new 15 barrel brewing system bringing their region-wide employment up to 125 people. The former Hammer Time Home Center, now called Camp Abbot Trading Company, has been expanded and completely remodeled to serve as a wide-ranging general store.
Cascade Wellness Technologies (CWT) in Sunriver, is a medical device manufacturer, producing holistic, non-invasive healing methods as an alternative to pharma and surgical procedures. The flagship project is a device which has automated the application of hot and cold to the body in a targeted area in any fashion desired.
David Schaefer, president/chief executive officer at CWT says, “We are very excited to bring this effective alternative to the masses and provide a healing method that has not been realistic until now. We are very proud to have our business based here in the Sunriver area. The amount of support and enthusiasm that this community has offered us has been incredible.”
La Pine has added to a strong wood-products industry base with Quicksilver Contracting Company leasing 4.5 acres in the La Pine Industrial Park. Quicksilver has added a base of its operations in one of South County’s greatest assets — its 300 acre Industrial and Business Park with sewer, water and power already curbside. The park boasts the lowest land costs in Deschutes County as well as the lowest system development charges in Central Oregon.
Additionally, Mid-Oregon Community Credit Union added a new branch in La Pine, there is a new St. Charles Health System care facility under construction and a new Grocery Outlet and Dollar Store to serve local residents.
The new owners of La Pine landmark Gordy’s Truck Stop and Restaurant, American Royals, LLC, plan to expand the truckers’ haven into potentially one of the biggest travel centers in Oregon. Plans for potential expansion are still being formulated but would maintain 24-hour opening and could encompass a significant increase in the size of the convenience store and the addition of a mezzanine floor to include showers, sauna, Jacuzzi, hot tub, fitness room, pool table and TV lounge accessible to commercial driver’s licensees.
A hotel is being contemplated for a proportion of the total 16-acre site, to the east of the store, with both regular rooms and a proportion of suites catering to people travelling with families needing more space and banquet room facilities which could be available for use by the local community or as a family gathering place.
While Sunriver already has an outstanding and well-recognized brand, La Pine has made significant strides in setting the table for economic and business development including the ongoing development of the Deschutes County Rural Enterprise Zone to include the Sunriver Business Park and Spring River Plaza along with the City of La Pine and Bend Airport and La Pine’s Newberry Business Park and Finley Butte Industrial Parks.
“There has been significant progress in the area of branding for La Pine with the help of Travel Oregon, City of La Pine and The Mandala Agency. This, combined with some heavy lifting quarterbacked by the City of La Pine on streetscaping, signage and architectural standards for new buildings, is changing how Oregon’s newest City looks and feels,” Lee said.
Still, South County faces some definite economic challenges and none are more prevalent than location.
“La Pine is 30 miles from Bend, the region’s largest city, which is the most isolated metro area in Oregon and the only one east of the Cascade Mountain range. Geographic location is a mental barrier for some longtime residents of the region as well as those outside the area considering investments in South County,” Lee said.
Sunriver faces a similar obstacle in overcoming the perception that it is merely a tourist community. The town boasts entrepreneurial businesses such as Sunriver Brewing, Cascade Wellness Technologies and Caddis Systems in addition to the recent opening of Camp Abbot Trading Company.
EDCO defines economic vitality as both a measure of prosperity for all residents and the resiliency of the employment base through the diversity of industries.
“Better paying jobs and more diversity of industries and employers typically translate to a better ability to withstand changes in the business cycle. By these measures, while this area of Central Oregon has arguably had as great of an economic vitality as ever in the past 100 years, significant progress is still needed in Sunriver and La Pine,” Lee said.
The economic fortunes of Sunriver are largely determined by the health of the visitor industry. La Pine has become a more significant commercial hub for southern Deschutes County and northern Lake and Klamath counties, but it still lacks a base of traded-sector companies that are the foundation for healthy economies.
Culp comes from Mississippi where he most recently worked as a Senior Project Manager for the Mississippi Development Authority, the economic equivalent of Business Oregon.
In 2016 alone, he helped recruit nearly 1,000 jobs and $220 million in private investment to Mississippi, while guiding businesses ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies on site selection, project financing, and workforce development.
“It’s not often we are able to hire team members with applied economic development experience,” said Roger Lee, CEO of EDCO. “Ryan comes to us with invaluable recruitment knowledge and a track record of bringing together all the necessary elements of complex business development projects that will help him to make a difference in La Pine and Sunriver.”
While many residents in south county typically commute 30+ minutes to work each day Culp’s ideas about workforce development intend to tap into the human capital already present in South County to create more jobs close to home.
“It’s a goal of EDCO across the tri-county area to have a mix of well-paying jobs locally in each of our communities and we believe Ryan is both well-equipped and passionate about making that happen. He has a strong competitive spirit and thrives on winning. That will serve Sunriver, La Pine, and EDCO well,” Lee said.
Culp brings a combination of enthusiasm and optimism about the economic future of Sunriver and La Pine. He has experience in recruitment of large, complex economic development projects and intends to fulfill several impactful projects EDCO has been working on for many years.
“I am excited about the opportunity to serve the people of southern Deschutes County as I become a part of the community. La Pine and Sunriver have assets unlike any other community in Central Oregon that position them to win. Southern Deschutes County has project ready industrial sites, a qualified workforce and pro-business leadership. When these elements come together, industry gets to market faster and makes profits quicker,” Culp said.