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Despite COVID-19, local EDCO director reports an uptick in many sectors of local businesses

RAMONA MCCALLISTER - The former Woodgrain Millwork Inc. industrial and manufacturing space is an example of spec building spaces of 90-plus acreage in larger-scale manufacturing developments in Crook County.

Despite the past several months of economic hardship facing Crook County, the local Economic Development for Central Oregon has seen an uptick of activity amongst the business sector.

Some of the movement that Prineville/Crook County EDCO Director Kelsey Lucas has recently reported includes spec building space, light industrial, industrial and residential space for development and housing, an influx of aviation and aerospace leads, and interest in 90-plus acreage in larger-scale manufacturing developments on Millican Road and Highway 126.

Baldwin Industrial, Cessna Drive buildings (10,000 Square feet each), Tom McCall Road, Kevin Spencer developments near Prineville Airport, Prineville Facebook Data Center, as well as former Woodgrain Mill spec industrial and manufacturing space are examples of spec building spaces.

"Prineville, notoriously, compared to other parts of Oregon has pretty low cost of land, and we have the largest inventory of industrial land—on the larger scale," said Lucas of the 90-plus acreages for industrial developments. "Only less than a handful of cities within the entire state have over 90 acres for industrial projects, and we have a few of those."

Lucas reports a large volume of interest in leasing spec industrial space and developing land reserved for spec development, as well as the fact that the housing market is booking with low rates. She added that other factors that have been a draw for new businesses included lower costs for utilities like electricity. Workforce has been a big draw, with people moving to Central Oregon for quality of life due to access to outdoor activities.

"Especially with COVID, it seems like more people are trying to get out of more populous areas, so they don't have as much traffic, and they can live where they want to live, because there is more flexibility with employers right now and people being able to move their business or work remotely," she emphasized.

There is also a draw for many companies looking to relocate or expand at the Prineville Airport due to the new industrial space opened post-helibase completion, and developments in Tom McCall Industrial Park adjacent to the airport.

Lucas went on to say that regionwide trends include individuals moving out of bigger cities to be closer to families as well. She added that low interest rates and business loans is a draw and can be a deciding factor for those who may have been looking at Crook County for a period of time.

"I think a huge draw is quality of life and cost of doing business," noted Lucas. "A lot of people have wanted to move here but may not have been able to find a job in their specific industry. With the flexibility and being able to work remotely and people who don't have to have their customers next door and they have the flexibility to live where they want, this has pushed people towards that decision."

Lucas also pointed out that manufacturing has been relatively stable during the pandemic.

"I have had a couple of companies in Prineville say they are doing better than they ever have—versus previous years for the month that they were in."

Background of EDCO in Central Oregon and Crook County

Founded in 1981, Economic Development for Central Oregon Prineville/Crook County Economic Development – through EDCO – has had the mission of helping move, start and grow traded-sector businesses to purposefully create a balanced and diverse economy both regionally and locally.

"We attract and guide outside employers through the relocation process as a resource for regional data, incentives, talent, site selection and more," Lucas said.

She went on to say, "We mentor and advise scalable young companies from concept to exit on issues such as access to capital, critical expertise and strategy. We also partner with local traded-sector companies to help them grow and expand."

The Prineville/Crook County EDCO program was initiated in 2007, marking 13 years of active engagement in Crook County's growing community. The program has the support of a local advisory board that is 19 members strong across a diverse group of industries, and they play a significant role in collaborating and strategizing on how to make the community prosper.

Lucas also reported two new local program members, which includes TCM and Republic Services.

Funding for the Prineville/Crook County program comes from both public and private members and stakeholders. The City of Prineville, Crook County and the chamber are all key partners and contributors, as well as private businesses from around the county and Central Oregon region. These supporting organizations share the overarching vision of building a stronger, robust and inclusive economy in Crook County.

In partnership with the Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce, the local program worked with local businesses during the pandemic to secure contributions and distribute grants to local businesses for the COVID Relief Task Force grant program. In total, the partnership secured $278,000 in contributions and distributed $227,675 in Task Force grants and $35,000 in COIC grants. Of the contributions for Crook County businesses, Facebook donated $200,000.

Some statistics that give a snapshot of Crook County and Prineville might be surprising to some folks. The population of Crook County currently stands at 22,307, with Prineville at 10,734. The median age of residents in Crook County is 47.8, with Prineville at 40.1.

The labor force of Crook County is 9,540, and Prineville's labor force is currently at 4,257. The median home price for real estate in Crook County is $271,262, but the median home price in Prineville is currently $320,000. The median household income in Crook County is $44,524, with Prineville at $34,630.

Sidebar

The new executive board election for 2020-2021

President: Matt Chancellor, Pacific Power

President Elect: Craig Hunt, First Interstate Bank

Vice President: Mike Warren, Crook County Properties

Treasurer: Justin Mohan, Mohan CPA

Contacts:

Kelsey Lucas

Prineville/Crook County EDCO Director

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Office: 541-233-2015

Address:

187 NW Second St. Prineville, OR 97754


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