(Photo | courtesy of CLS Fabrication)
Hortitech Direct is one of the newest manufacturing companies to relocate to La Pine. CEO Dave Ross said he chose La Pine for a variety of reasons including the welcoming business community and developed infrastructure at the La Pine Industrial Park.
Hortitech Direct manufactures custom-designed greenhouse kits sold nationwide to both commercial and residential clients. “The kits are shipped to a location where they are constructed,” Ross said. “Each greenhouse is designed and outfitted to meet a client’s needs.” As a newcomer, he was surprised to learn La Pine has 16 manufacturing companies including Legend Cider, Badlands Distillery, Wood Products and Forest Contracting, Quicksilver Contracting and Scott Logging.
Sunriver La Pine Economic Development (SLED) Executive Director Patricia Lucas said three manufacturing companies have moved to La Pine in the last three years and three existing businesses plan to expand in the next year or more. The diversity of the manufacturing companies in La Pine reflects what is happening throughout Central Oregon and the state of Oregon.
According to the Oregon Business & Industry Education and Research Foundation and the Oregon Business Council, Oregon ranks 16th in the United States for manufacturing as a share of state gross domestic product. Manufacturing jobs in Oregon employ 214,000 people or eight percent of the state’s employment with a median income of $55,000 compared to $47,000 for all other industries. “Oregon has emerged as a leading manufacturing state during the past half century – with production and employment growth routinely outpacing the U.S. average,” the report read. “Oregon’s manufacturing employment increased 14 percent from 1969 to 2019 while U.S. manufacturing jobs declined by 34 percent during the same time.”
Central Oregon Leading in Manufacturing Jobs
EDCO CEO Jon Stark shared that manufacturing jobs grew from 2010 to 2019 by 15.1 percent in the United States; 28.4 percent in Oregon; 67.7 percent in Deschutes County and 97.7 percent in Redmond. Manufacturing jobs account for eight percent of Central Oregon’s employment. The manufacturing companies with the largest number of employees include Bright Wood Corporation, Deschutes Brewery, Epic Air, Keith Manufacturing Co., 10 Barrel Brewing Co., and Sunriver Brewing.
Founded in 1981, EDCO is a nonprofit corporation supported by private and public members and stakeholders. EDCO’s mission is to create a balanced and diversified economy with a strong base of middle-class jobs in Central Oregon. Working with business and government leaders in Madras, Prineville, Sisters, Redmond, Bend and La Pine/Sunriver, it helps traded-sector companies to move, start or grow in Central Oregon.
Manufacturing industries in Central Oregon are aviation/aerospace, bioscience, brewing and distilling, building projects, food manufacturing, high technology and outdoor gear and apparel. Manufacturing accounts for 26 percent of jobs in Jefferson County; 15 percent in Sister; 13 percent in Prineville/Crook County; eight percent in Redmond; six percent in Bend and less than four percent in La Pine.
Eric Strobel is EDCO’s area director for Sisters. Throughout the United States, Strobel said the major challenges facing manufacturing companies are labor and supply chain shortages. Manufacturing companies that are expanding are implementing advancements in automation to offset the labor shortage.
At a recent business roundtable held in Sisters, Strobel said manufacturers listed workforce housing, transportation for commuters and lack of daycare as their top three issues. “We expect to see the automation trend continue as companies look for improved efficiencies and productivity,” he said. “For those companies wanting to expand and build new facilities, high construction costs are a major hurdle for projects, but there are a lot of expansions taking place right now.”
Stark shared many manufacturers are still recovering from the pandemic’s impact on the last two years. “The pandemic was a huge setback for manufacturing companies especially at the beginning when it was being determined how people could safely work,” Stark said. “The short-term shutdowns contributed to the supply chain shortages.”
Today, he said, companies are still trying to find solutions to inflation, worker shortages, increased wage demands and higher prices for everything from fuel to supplies. “EDCO is working with manufacturers in Central Oregon to help address their challenges including connecting them with employees,” he said.
Despite the challenges, Stark said manufacturing companies are still relocating and expanding in Central Oregon. “We receive inquiries every week from companies interested in Central Oregon,” he said.
Building a Diversified Economy
Traditionally known as a timber town with All American Timber and Scott Logging being the two oldest businesses, La Pine is attracting the attention for a diverse range of manufacturing companies. A contributing factor to La Pine’s economic development is the La Pine and Sunriver Economic Development (SLED), which is a partnership between the city of La Pine, Deschutes County, the private business sector and Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO).
Over the past six years, SLED has assisted 11 new and existing businesses with capital investments of more than $11.6 million, resulting in the creation of 135 jobs. La Pine has several timber industry manufacturing companies. “I am currently working with businesses from a variety of sectors considering locating in La Pine,” Lucas said. “In the past few years, manufacturers have opened in the greenhouses, distillery, specialty beverage and data mining sectors.
There are currently 183 jobs in the manufacturing sector in La Pine, with the range of employees at companies from one to 59. Lucas said the La Pine Industrial Park has attracted attention to manufacturing companies looking to move, start or grow.
The 330-acree industrial and business park has land parcels ranging from .2 to 40 acres, including 76 acres of state-certified parcels, shovel-ready lots for building and complete with curbside infrastructure. In the last year, five transactions have closed, more than that have closed in the past five years.
Owning and operating a manufacturing company comes with its challenges, but Lucas said there are several resources ready to help including SLED, EDCO and many more. These can be found on the La Pine and EDCO websites.