Commuters help drive Estacada economy
When you see cars driving along Highway 224 during rush hour, you might assume that these are mainly Estacada residents driving to work in other cities. But people are also commuting into the Estacada area.
According to U.S. Census data from 2015, the most recent year available, 70% of jobs in the geater Estacada area are filled by people who live outside of the region, compared to the 30% who both live and work in the area.
Estacada Economic Development Manager Matt Lorenzen said that while the number of local jobs has increased since 2015, it's likely that the trends remain fairly similar.
The greater Estacada area includes the 97022 and 97023 zip codes and parts of the 97022, 97045, 97004, 97017 zip codes. Within this region, 89% of residents are employed in other locations. Only 11% of residents also work in the area.
Additionally, 87.9% of people living within city limits are employed elsewhere, compared to 12.1% of people who live and work within the city.
Lorenzen noted that there are several possible reasons for the high number of outside residents commuting into the Estacada area.
"It points to a potential skills gap in our workforce . . . it could also be a disconnect in getting the word out (about the jobs)," he said.
He added that given Estacada's proximity to Portland, it isn't particularly surprising that local residents commute to outside locations. "We're rural in size and we're not within the urban growth boundary, but we're so close (to Portland)," he said.
Though many new houses have been constructed in Estacada in recent years, Lorenzen noted that this does not necessarily correlate with more people working in town.
"When you're building homes that start at $350,000, there are some jobs in Estacada that pay wages that support that mortgage, but not tons. A lot of people buying those houses work outside of Estacada," he said, adding that a national trend of increased telecommuting and working from home may also be relevant in Estacada.
At 224 employees, the Estacada School District is one of the city's largest employers. Of this number, 126 live in Estacada and Eagle Creek.
Estacada School District Communications Director Maggie Kelly noted that one reason some employees reside outside of the area is the need to find housing between two places of employment for dual income families.
"It can be tricky if you need to be conscious of where someone's spouse works," she said.
Kelly also noted that more of the district's employees are moving to the area.
"More employees are moving to the area as more housing inventory is opening up," she said. "It's exciting to see people relocate."
At Portland General Electric's Clackamas facilities, there are 63 people working in operations, fisheries and parks. Approximately one third of these employees live nearby; however, the company also has employees who live in Estacada and work in facilities outside of the area, bringing their total number of workers who live in the Estacada area to 65.
Reliance Connects is another large employer in town. Though they provide services to several other cities, 67 of their 78 employees work in Estacada. Of the Estacada employees, approximately 60% live locally.
"I like the small town feeling," Brenda Crosby said, discussing doing business in a rural area like Estacada. "You know your customers."
Whether they're commuting or live locally, many people who are employed in the Estacada area work in manufacturing.
The Eagle Creek-based Eagle Foundry has approximately 90 employees. The company primarily manufactures products are that typically used in equipment for cement, coal or rock quarry plants.
Additionally, many manufacturing businesses are located in the Estacada Industrial Campus. There has been an increase in businesses opening in downtown and uptown Estacada, but Lorenzen estimated that they are opening at a faster rate in the industrial campus — particularly if they are new developments.
A significant amount of these businesses specialize in metal manufacturing.
"Often, businesses like to cluster around similar businesses. There's not only competition, but they also complement one another," Lorenzen explained.
Rob Seubert of Seubert Machining said that being located near similar companies "absolutely" creates a complementary environment and noted that they partner with several other businesses in the Industrial Campus.
"We're both in manufacturing, but serving different industries and styles," he said.
Seubert Machining, which started in Colton, has 28 employees, two of whom live in Estacada. The company creates parts for other companies that manufacture items for a variety of industries, including aircraft, medical, HVAC and hydroelectric.
Nolan Bechtel of Metallion Industries said he chose the Estacada Industrial Campus for his business because "there's a need for this industry in this area." The company, 13 of whose 17 employees live locally, manufactures metal roofing and siding for agricultural, residential and commercial markets.
"Because our business caters to farmers and the agricultural industry, this area is probably better for us than an urban area," Bechtel said.
Both Seubert and Bechtel cited connectivity to highways and lack of traffic as additional benefits of doing business in Estacada, particularly when delivering products.
"We're not far from Highway 26, which (connects to) the Eastern run of the state," Bechtel said.
"There are no other traffic issues. We can get trucks in and out," Seubert added.
Lorenzen noted that the metal manufacturing industry is a significant element of Estacada's economy, similar to the way in which Park Lumber Mill was for much of the 1900s.
"The advanced metals cluster is not going away," Lorenzen said. "If you combine all the jobs in that cluster, it would probably exceed the number of jobs that the mill provided, even in its heyday."