(Photo | courtesy of Prineville/Crook County Economic Development)
Prineville/Crook County Economic Development through Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO)’s mission is to help move, start and grow traded-sector businesses to purposefully create a balanced and diverse economy both locally and region-wide. The Prineville/Crook County program was initiated in 2007, making this our 15-year anniversary in Crook County’s growing community.
Funding for the Prineville/Crook County program comes from both public and private members and stakeholders. The City of Prineville, Crook County and the Prineville-Crook County Chamber are all key partners and contributors, as well as private businesses from around the County and Central Oregon region wishing to support a stronger, robust and inclusive economy in Crook County.
Crook County has one of the highest in-migration rates for Micropolitan Statistical Areas (cities with 10,000-50,000 residents) in the entire country, according to U.S. Census Data from 2010-2020. Housing demand continues to outpace supply, but more residential applications were processed in 2021 than there have ever been, which include a mix of single family and multi-family dwelling units. 2022 should remain consistent with 2021, as the market is just starting to see impacts in building and buying activity with shifting interest rates and building supply inflation at this point. The Redfin median home price for Prineville was at $440,000 in January and has come down to approximately $402,000, with 46.2 percent of local homes selling over list price. The in-migration and community growth has resulted in a full recovery for the unemployed workforce, with countless options for job seekers to choose from.
The recovery in employment from the past two recessions can largely be attributed to data center construction and operation, which has also led to a shocking jump in the average wage in Crook County from $44,200 in 2007 to $61,599 in 2021, up 39.4 percent vs. 23.8 percent for the entire state of Oregon, according to Damon Runberg with the Oregon Employment Department. The information, construction and professional service industry wages have helped bridge the gap in the earnings to cost of living ratio we are seeing with an eight percent and climbing rise in inflation. The upsurge in inflation can be credited to a rise in demand, wages, production costs and supply chain constraints.
One of the biggest challenges for businesses both locally and regionally throughout the COVID recovery process has been staffing vacancies, despite full recovery to pre-pandemic unemployment rates in Crook County. Although Crook County does have a high in-migration rate for the size and geography of the community, there is still a deficit when it comes to commuting patterns. The Prineville-Crook County Chamber, Crook County and EDCO Prineville partnered on a campaign in an effort to retain residents that are commuting to other Central Oregon communities for work to take jobs locally. There are around 2,000 people commuting into the County every day for work, just under 3,000 staying local, and nearly 5,000 commuting to other areas. Staffing has been a nationwide challenge prior to COVID, but even more so since the pandemic hit, and Crook County is no outlier to this issue. The goal for the double-sided signs posted throughout Powell Butte on the way to other Central Oregon communities is to grab attention and make people aware of the diverse industries, companies, skill levels and comparable compensation vs. previous years that are available in their backyard, with the added benefit of saving time and income spent on high gas prices, childcare and meals. In just a couple of weeks, following the campaign going live, there have been 1,525 visits to the PrinevilleJobs.com page in a County with a labor force of just over 10,500. Our Top 25 Crook County Employers, based on employment numbers, totaled 3,808 employees, up 241 from last year with many additional positions to fill across all 25 organizations and the many others that make up the fabric of this community. Although our labor pool is growing significantly, businesses are still struggling to fill gaps due to increased demand, new markets leading to new roles tapped during the pandemic, and the difficulty in retaining employees during The Great Resignation.
Some Crook County economic highlights from the past year include:
EDCO assisted with three new company projects and two local companies expanding their operations for a total of five projects, creating 156 new jobs locally and bringing in an estimated $2,057,021,462 in capital investment. In addition to those five projects coming to fruition, there are currently 21 pending projects in the pipeline.
One of Prineville’s newest traded-sector companies to begin operation in 2022 is SherpTek, a company that launched in 2017 and recently moved to Crook County. SherpTek designs and manufactures high-end aftermarket aluminum truck bed replacement systems that are lightweight, durable, modular and multi-functional. Their systems can fit on any truck or van chassis, and most are custom built-to-order with installations taking place at their facility in Prineville. Their team works hand-in-hand with customers to design, build and deliver a system that tightly integrates with their truck and camper if applicable, and meets their wants and needs. In addition to this, SherpTek founders have launched a spinoff company, MARS eXpedition Vehicles, which will deliver complete expedition units that include both a SherpTek bed and a tightly integrated high-end camper, will be available on a variety of chassis. SherpTek/MARS XV will be one of Prineville’s first start-ups to pitch at EDCO’s Central Oregon PubTalk this month, on June 23, at Silver Moon Brewing.
Wild Ride Brewing also officially opened their Prineville Brewery and Tap Room two weeks ago. According to Co-Owner, Brian Mitchell, “It is amazing to finally be open to the community! The build-out project was a bit lengthy, and we have been so excited to get our second Wild Ride Tap Room open and get our new 5 Barrel brewhouse in operation. In just two short weeks we’ve brewed four new beers that are currently fermenting, and in the next week or two we’ll be tapping those new beer releases in the Tap Room. We’ve received so much support from the community who has been out to see what Wild Ride is all about and try our beers and food at the four food trucks (Wild Catch, Andale Street Tacos, Burger Love and Stone Pine Pizza). Our team is what makes everything happen, and they’re certainly working hard to make sure the customer experience is exceptional.” Wild Ride’s Prineville Tap Room is open every day from 11am-10pm, as are the food trucks on site.
Not only has there been a consistent stream of activity from traded-sector industries, but also the development side. The former Woodgrain mill site, one of Crook County’s former top employers, has now been redeveloped into about 200,000 sq. ft. of spec industrial space, with various buildings and cement pads, and rebranded as the Prineville Campus. Tom McCall Industrial Park has seen significant activity with approximately 21,000 sq. ft. of new construction that has already been fully leased. There are additional lots for further speculative development and build-to-suit projects adjacent to new construction. Baldwin Industrial Park had 40,000 sq. ft. in spec space, split among four buildings, which was fully leased in 2020/2021. Not only has there been building development, but Prineville is one of the few cities in Oregon that has land parcels over 100 acres left on the market in Oregon. The Airport has around 20 acres, both airside and landside, ripe for development with infrastructure and runway access in place for general aviation and aerospace manufacturing uses.
EDCO Prineville plans to host the 2022 Made in Crook County Tour in the fall. More event details to come in the next couple of months as we look forward to reconnecting with investors and community partners on-site at some of our local businesses.