Products Made in Central Oregon  Keep Economy Going & Help Spread the Love

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(“Make local habit” signage in downtown Bend | Miguel Edwards Photography)

With the holidays nearly upon us, our thoughts may be shifting momentarily away from the events of the world to something a little less intense: shopping. For some, shopping may be anxiety-inducing, but either way, gift-giving will still happen next month, and keeping it local is one way to make buying fun while also helping the Central Oregon economy.

“Shopping local is important because it keeps money in your local community, and when a local community is infused with money, it thrives,” says Mindy Aisling, executive director of Downtown Bend Business Owner’s Association. “Shopping local is also important because, as humans, we need connection to live our best lives. When you shop local, you get to know the person who made or curated your goods. It’s those little connections that make a rich life.”

Keeping money within the community has always been important, but perhaps never more so than now, as Central Oregon struggles along with the rest of the world to recover from the effects of the pandemic. “Aside from the love and support you would be contributing to someone’s passion and dreams as an entrepreneur, shopping local helps stimulate the economy, creating and keeping jobs right here in Central Oregon. You get the experience of touching, feeling and, most importantly, people interaction,” says Affton Coffelt, CEO and founder of Bend-based Broken Top Candle Company. “A lot of local businesses spend their time giving back to the community through charities, education and other nonprofits — the more you support, the more we can give, keeping the love right here in Central Oregon.”

There are two sides to the made-in-Central Oregon coin: those items that are manufactured here, and those whose creators use local ingredients in making their product. “Many of our downtown businesses carry locally made goods,” says Aisling. “A few that come to mind are Found Natural Goods (foundnaturalgoods.com), aos Skincare (aosskincare.com), Bendy Dog (bendydog.com), John Paul Designs jewelry, (johnpauldesigns.com) and Feather’s Edge (thefeathersedge.com).” In each of these shops, goods are either made by hand onsite, or made using locally sourced materials or ingredients. “Downtown Bend businesses are owned and operated by the most fantastic, wonderful, kind and giving families in our community,” adds Aisling. “They are a delight to know and to support.”

Brad Irwin, owner of Oregon Spirit Distillers, agrees that the benefits to buying local are many, whether the item is an object or a food or beverage. “Buying local products keeps all of the money (other than taxes) in the local economy. This is particularly important when the product is produced from local ingredients,” he says. “If you buy a bottle of locally made whiskey, you are not just supporting the company; you are also supporting the distiller, the bottler, the tasting room host and the farmer who grew the grain. Oregon Spirit Distillers has 21 employees.”

Don Myll, Bend area director of EDCO, says he has noticed that Central Oregon companies have a tendency to prioritize using local suppliers and manufacturers in the creation of their final products. He believes that this neighborly camaraderie between businesses has caused an above-expected demand in some sectors of the supply chain. “There are many examples of local companies pivoting in the face of COVID to help their local brethren,” he says. “Whether distributing locally made hand sanitizer, expanding manufacturing in order to address local health-care provider needs or providing free face coverings, Central Oregon companies are looking out to help their neighbors.”

As is evidenced by the growing number of businesses in Cascade Business News’ annual “Made in Central Oregon” listings, there is an influx of companies moving into the region from other areas. This has been the case for years, but the era of COVID and civil unrest has served to accelerate growth here as individuals and business owners leave larger cities in search of smaller, more peaceful regions. “Capital is cheap, interest rates are at an all-time low and businesses that hadn’t had the time to make their move into a new area previously found the time to do so during the COVID disruption,” says Jon Stark, senior director of Redmond Economic Development Inc. (REDI) “The disruption gave them the time to make their move into central Oregon, and there is now affordability in making the move.” He adds, “Our crystal ball moving forward looks like a continuation of the rapid growth we’ve seen over the past nine years.”

Adding to the eclectic mix of products made in Central Oregon is the creative nature of so many people who live here. There is a distinct entrepreneurial spirit in this region that is evidenced in our local shops and businesses. This makes buying locally fun — during the holidays and at any other time of year. If COVID creates anxiety about strolling through the stores in person, most local businesses have websites that offer vast selections of items that can be purchased online. This is perhaps one silver lining to the pandemic: Businesses have stepped up their online presences in a big way. If you want to sit at your computer to shop from home, it’s no longer necessary to order from the big warehouse companies.

“Oftentimes, products that are produced locally are unique to Central Oregon,” says Irwin. “Sharing gifts from Central Oregon to people who live abroad brings a personal touch from the giver. Also, it is often something that they cannot get where they live.” He adds, “When you give a gift, it is nice to know that you met the maker. Or, you can order from Amazon and meet the UPS driver.” Irwin and his wife grew up in Bend and are raising their children here. “Twelve years ago, we were looking at the wonderful resources that Central Oregon has to offer: access to great grain and water, and people with passion in making a fantastic beverage. Also, the climate is great for distilling and aging whiskey. There is no better place to make whiskey than Central Oregon.”

Coffelt, whose candle company has grown from a small daughter-father operation to a large international enterprise, adds, “When you buy local, you get products that are higher quality and are created by fellow comrades, friends or possibly even family. Local gifts are a great way to spread our ‘Bend love’ everywhere.” She continues, “Broken Top was born in Bend five years ago (happy anniversary to us!) in my tiny little kitchen in southwest Bend. Since then, we have blossomed into our 12,000-square-foot warehouse in northeast Bend and we employ 12 amazing team members. The love and support of many local businesses and their willingness to take a chance on our brand has been the root of our success. Thank you Central Oregon.”

Certainly, there is a plethora of businesses that make products locally. We don’t have nearly enough room to list them all, but here is a small sampling offered by EDCO’s Myll:

In Bend

In Crook County / Prineville

In Sunriver / La Pine

In Sisters

In Redmond

  • Poltex —Manufacturer of organizational equipment for healthcare industry — poltex.com
  • Oregon’s Wild Harvest— Herbal supplements — oregonswildharvest.com

See Cascade Business News’ Made in Central Oregon List online.

downtownbend.org  • edcoinfo.com

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