Model Government, Private Sector Teamwork Retains Jobs in Region
Business, economic development and community leaders, including state Governor John Kitzhaber, have hailed the collaborative effort to keep Central Oregon Truck Company (COTC) in the region as a “wonderful example” of how the public and private sector can work together to keep Oregonians employed.
In recent history, COTC – which hauls freight throughout the United States and Canada and currently employs over 250 people with an average employee salary and benefit package approximately 150 percent of the Central Oregon average – was faced with the question of establishing a new corporate headquarters in the region or relocating, potentially to another state.
COTC looked initially to Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) and affiliate Redmond Economic Development, Inc. (REDI) Manager Jon Stark to assist them in looking at the feasibility of consolidating existing facilities to one site with close access to U.S. Hwy 97 to improve operations.
The company was also seriously considering relocating to Reno, Nevada – a known distribution and logistics hub for the Western U.S.
COTC required a 5-10 acre parcel next to a major highway to provide easy access for their trucks to and from the terminal, and a location suitable for an office building, training facility, and maintenance shop to house administrative, logistics and maintenance personnel.
Economic development officials worked with the company to find a suitable site and to develop a meaningful incentive package that would compete with alternatives like Reno, and with the help of Stark a 12-acre parcel off Hwy 97 in Redmond surfaced as a front-runner, but it required transportation improvements to make it potentially feasible for the prospect.
A multi-agency meeting was convened including EDCO, Business Oregon, Oregon Department of Transportation, the City of Redmond and the Governor’s Regional Solutions Team – which have been set up for each of the economic development districts in the state “to focus agency work and investments on regional priorities, to integrate public and private resources to solve problems and to seize opportunities to grow Oregon’s economy and create jobs.”
The group agreed upon fixes to Hwy 97 that included a new acceleration lane to northbound 97 and a traffic improvement at the intersection of Hwy 126, which were needed to accommodate the increased truck movements and provide for the safe and efficient operation of the COTC fleet.
The company’s eligibility for a combination of local, regional and state incentive programs – including an Immediate Opportunity Fund administered by the Oregon Transportation Commission which can contribute to transportation projects “that influence the location, relocation and retention of businesses in Oregon” by building and improving streets and roads that require a quick response – and additional commitment of dollars was confirmed, which led the company to the decision to purchase the property and locate their state-of-the-art new facility off Hwy 97 and NE Hemlock in Redmond.
COTC CEO Rick Williams commented, “Shortly after the needs were identified, a series of governmental entities jumped into action to come up with what turned out to be a workable solution “Not only did this support retaining jobs in Oregon, it also supported the creation of jobs. COTC continues to grow our fleet and we anticipate adding further jobs for logistical services, clerical, administrative and operations support.
“We also continue to grow during a challenging economy because our business is nationwide and not locally dependent.
“While we could have been anywhere, we chose to stay in Oregon, and in particular Central Oregon, for a multitude of reasons. We appreciate the efforts of all of the agencies involved, and we particularly appreciate those individuals who had the foresight to see the value of a transportation company remaining here.
“Our special thanks go to Jon Stark at EDCO for his hard work and help. Jon really took us by the hand and helped us make decisions by either finding out answers or directing us in the right direction or to the right people. Jon was great at keeping the ball rolling.
“We also value the wonderful quality of life, the beauty of the state, the excellent people here in Central Oregon, the central location of Central Oregon to the 11 Western states, schools, costs of living and our family roots and ties.
“We were truly impressed with how quickly everyone responded, and the commitment and earnest support from all partners tipped the scale in Central Oregon’s favor as we considered sites in other states.
“The bottom line was a true collaboration between government and the private sector worked to retain jobs in Central Oregon.”
Stark added, “When you walk COTC’s new property and see everything from the amenities to the advanced culture of teamwork, you realize it’s not your everyday trucking company.
“The issue to begin with was the separation between the trucking and administration and brokerage and the need to consolidate unified operations under one roof.
“The initial conversation centered on what place made the most sense, and like many logistics companies they were also taking a hard look at Nevada, given its proximity to major traffic arteries and its preferential tax regime.
“The executive team obviously had a strong connection with Central Oregon, but not if it did not pencil in terms of operational costs.
“They were looking for optimal site to locate and that’s where we came in.
“This company is not just a great operator and the type of broad based manufacturing and industrial company (that also supports its community) that we want to retain in the region, but is also an important large local carrier.
“We knew they needed a location off Highway 97 and we didn’t necessarily have the perfect site but there was great coordination between several different agencies to sort access issues out and make it work.
“We brought in parties including ODOT and Business Oregon in a bid to provide creative solutions and the Opportunity Fund was a state program that could be leveraged with matching local funds to support providing transportation improvements for job creation as part of the Governor’s Regional Solutions initiative, and it was great to see several agencies working together to collaborate towards a common goal.
“The company’s importance to the region includes being a carrier to many of our manufacturers, being a substantial employer and the type of company we want in terms culture, pay scale and exemplary citizenry in giving back to community.
“There are few projects that occur in Oregon that have had this type of collaboration across agencies towards realization of a desired goal.
“This was a great example of how things should work and it is nice to know the machine can function with a little oil. State and regional economic development agencies came together for all the right reasons.
“Everyone who has gone through the new facility has said what a great place it is to work. It is an example of understanding value and a ‘get it done’ attitude, which includes the City of Redmond which has put systems and procedures in place to expedite business.
“A lot of pieces of the puzzle had to be put together to make this the right choice, for the right reasons.”
“Keeping Central Oregon Trucking in our region has been a significant priority,” noted EDCO Executive Director Roger Lee. “Through an incredible effort of public and private collaboration, we are able to retain quality jobs in the region and help build our transportation supply chain.”
Governor Kitzhaber has set up Regional Solutions Teams for each of the economic development districts in the state to focus agency work and investments on regional priorities and to integrate resources to grow Oregon’s economy and create jobs.