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Crook County government and economic leaders team up to launch a sign campaign intended to discourage workers from leaving Prineville for jobs outside of town

RAMONA MCCALLISTER - From left, Crook County Judge Seth Crawford, Greg Lambert of Mid Oregon Personnel, Mike Warren Jr., and Crook County Economic Development Manager Kelsie Lucas install one of four signs placed on Hwy. 126 between Prineville and Redmond.Some local government and business leaders are teaming up to launch a new sign campaign intended to spur more job growth in Crook County.

Kelsie Lucas, Crook County's economic development manager with Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) pointed out that many local residents commute to Bend or Redmond for work, which is exacerbating the worker shortage the community faces.

"We have about 2,000 people commuting into Crook County for work every day, 3,000 staying local and about 5,000 commute out," she said, "and that is 3,000 people we are losing to other areas."

Crook County Judge Seth Crawford and Kim Daniels, executive director of the Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce have witnessed the same local staffing shortage, prompting a conversation with Lucas during a recent EDCO board meeting. The three board members talked about the commuting issue as it relates to the staffing shortage, trying to figure out a way to encourage people to consider local employment.

"There is still a good chunk of people that we could probably be retaining because we have jobs across the board," Lucas said, "both blue collar and white collar, a lot of manufacturing, health care, administrative jobs. There is still a lot of tech and construction."

"We have all these openings in town that maybe people aren't aware of," Daniels added.

So, after some discussions about ways to get creative and raise awareness of the local job openings, the group decided on a sign campaign.

"The Chamber, County and EDCO came together with a plan to get that information in front of the people who are leaving our community and working in Redmond and Bend," Crawford explained.

Four signs were installed last weekend along Highway 126 between Prineville Airport and Powell Butte. The signs include such messages as "You could've been at work 10 minutes ago," "Want to save $200+ a week on gas?" and "Work where you live, more time to play."

"Our thought is these folks already have housing here in Crook County and there has got to be people working in jobs with similar pay in Crook County," Crawford said. "If we could get them to not have to drive through Powell Butte, save money on fuel and have the ability to spend more time with their family, that seems like a win for everybody."

Each of the signs includes a web address for Prinevillejobs.com, a domain name that Daniels said the Chamber purchased early in the pandemic when businesses first reopened.

"What we were doing originally is we were posting job openings for our members," she said. "Over time, that turned into something that was too difficult to maintain, because we didn't know when those positions had been filled or if they changed." So, the Chamber decided to keep the domain and directed it to a Google search page of Crook County jobs. Now, when people visit prinevillejobs.com, it will take them to the results of the search for jobs in the county, which Daniels said can be filtered by industry and other categories.

Crawford said that the group plans to install more signs along the Madras Highway, perhaps in the next couple of weeks.

Lucas noted that Crook County has been the fastest to community to bounce back to pre-COVID unemployment, but job vacancies remain. So, the hope is that the program will help keep people local, boost the Crook County economy and help people save on gas and childcare expenses.

"It's mutually beneficial," she said.


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