The Economy of Our Community Looks Good


Five pages of Companies to Watch are posted in the February 5 issue of Cascade Business News. Over the course of last year we have gathered information and watched these innovative companies as they create new products and expand their reach.  It’s a particularly impressive list of businesses ranging from craft breweries, internet marketing solutions, guitars, aviation including unmanned aerial systems, biotech research and development to solar, bullets and trucking. 

The diversity of our community is sharply apparent where Central Oregon once weighed heavily on the timber industry and construction jobs the economic potential of our region now rests with innovation in high tech, biotech research, unique software, aviation, tourism and recreational products.

The companies spotlighted in the Companies to Watch list employ well over 5,000 people. The largest companies include a telemarketing company TRG at 550, Deschutes Brewery at 400, Consumer Cellular at 300, Bend Research with 250, PCC Schlosser at 246, Central Oregon Trucking 225, Navis at 211 and Keith Manufacturing at 200 employees. 

These largest companies are conveniently diverse offering telemarketing and customer services all over the world, providing nationwide cellular phones and support, handcrafting beer, conducting innovative research and analytical processes, making titanium castings for jet aircraft engines, flatbed hauling from a new 28,000-square-foot driver facility, providing reservation sales and marketing for the resort industry and manufacturing hydraulically-driven moving floor conveyor systems. 

Small start-up companies make up the backbone of our economy with clever and innovative products such as Cascade Cycleboats, Bird Gard that makes Deer shield and bird repellers, CIES that has growth by 100 percent in the last three years with its aviation software, Drink Tank’s growlers and kegs, Fido Love finding new homes for dogs and cats, Giant Loop’s motorcycle saddlebags, Oregon Pack Works, Picky Bars, Samson Motors’ flying cars and Waggletops covers for dog beds.  

The outlook for many small businesses is improving and will continue to get better throughout 2014. Steve Curley, director of the Small Business Development Center at COCC, says many factors are contributing to this dynamic including the availability of capital and an economy that is beginning to gain some steam. Consumer confidence continues to rise, driving spending at the retail level with business conditions improving, causing companies to look at growth strategies and opportunities once more.

As Roger Lee of Economic Development of Central Oregon (EDCO) points out in his economic outlook: there are some noteworthy structural differences between Central Oregon’s economy today and our previous peak in 2007. Steadily but quietly, diversification is happening with more jobs and companies in sectors other than we’ve relied on in the past. In fact, in 2013 employment in construction is down 57 percent from 2007 levels and, remarkably, has dropped as an overall percentage of employment from 13 percent to 6 percent, a figure still higher than the 4 percent national average, but in much more healthy alignment than it was six years ago.

EDCO focuses are adding traded sector jobs to our region — companies that export most of their products/services outside the area. In 2012 EDCO helped private traded-sector employers add 1,135 new, well-paying jobs while investing more than $340 million into building and equipment.  Last year they were able to report adding 720 new jobs, helping 31 new, existing and early stage companies complete relocation, expansion and launch projects.


A central theme to the commentaries in this issue is by far Oregon State University-Cascades forging a four-year college for the region. At the standpoint of economic development adding those graduates to our economy is crucial to Central Oregon’s future. 

The stabilization of the housing market is on the upswing. New home building is increasing and housing prices and values are going up. New construction has gone up 197 percent in Redmond and 107 percent in Bend over 2013. That is a trend that will continue according to Realtor Elizabeth Ueland of Bend Premier Real Estate.

According to Doug Meyer from Lancair International the aviation industry as a whole has endured the recent significant economic challenges and Lancair continues to grow and expand market share. Epic Air announced plans last week to hire 24 employees to further its certification efforts on its turboprop plane with the FAA. Leading Edge Aviation is uniquely positioned for growth with its flight school and fleet of helicopters and approved charter division assisting with wild land firefighting activities as well as oil and gas exploration. Professional Air expects flight instruction and aircraft maintenance to continue growing at 10-15 percent next year. CIES, Inc., a four-year old aviation system design firm, has  grown by 100 percent in its first year of production and forecasting another 100 percent increase for 2014.

The pipeline of projects EDCO expects to see in 2014 has never been stronger.  They are currently in the final stages with 128 companies that collectively would create nearly 2,000 new jobs and invest $1.1 billion in new capital investment in the tri-county area. 

Industries represented in this portfolio of firms are quite diverse including advanced manufacturing, aviation/aerospace, bioscience, brewing & distilling, outdoor equipment & apparel, software, data warehousing and food processing. Although not all these projects will come to fruition in the year ahead, Roger Lee says he is confident that a significant number will. 

Dino Vendetti, an early stage venture capitalist with Seven Peaks Ventures, said at a recent City Club forum that the entrepreneurs will lead us out of the recession: Bend is 16th in nation for start ups, only city in a metro area in the top 25 without a four-year university. We’ve been entrepreneurial out of necessity he says. He plans to continue that strategy to support the tech industry and having a really focused mentor driven program. If we want the tech scene to work here, we need to form intelligent pools of capital and go after what you need. 

While tourism has been booming for the past couple of years, Doug LaPlaca of Visit Bend reminds us that it will require continued creativity, innovation and hard work to ensure Bend’s tourism industry can maintain sustainable growth for years to come.

This entrepreneurial spirit of Dino Vendetti and Doug LaPlaca’s advice remain true for all industries: the positive potential of our economy is something to celebrate, but it will take hard work and diligence to preserve viable growth in our region and support start-ups, innovation and new and expanding businesses.


About Author

Founded in 1994 by the late Pamela Hulse Andrews, Cascade Business News (CBN) became Central Oregon’s premier business publication. •

Leave A Reply