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2020 has seen a handful of national-line businesses open in Madras, and the jobless rates are improving, setting up what hopefully will be a strong post-pandemic rebound

The dark cloud of COVID constantly hovering above for more than a half year couldn't kill development in Madras.

There has certainly been a lot of economic pain endured here in the Madras-Jefferson County area during the pandemic. But it hasn't derailed us. In fact, considering all the development and national brands that opened in Madras during the pandemic, it's easy to think Madras is primed for an economic takeoff once COVID takes its exit.

Sometime soon, maybe (hopefully) after the winter season, we'll be able to take off our masks just in time to breath in a burst of development not seen since the late-90s.

Dollar General and Auto Zone both came to town during the pandemic, and the major Love's truck stop project south of town is set to open in early November. Yes, Madras will have three trucks stops, two essentially new ones on the north and south of town, plus the ol' traditional one between them that has been an iconic local business for a half century. Hopefully, all three will stay busy enough into the future.

It's true that Madras has a lot of some things — pizza joints and auto part stores, for instance, and now truck stops — and none of others. Certainly we're known for having more quality, branded fast food chains than a town of 7,000 or so should enjoy — and we'll be getting yet another with the opening of Arby's inside the Love's building.

Madras serves travelers well. Hopefully, some will look around and realize it can be a pretty great place to put down roots.

Two major housing projects are moving along. The project near Strawberry Heights, with homes being sold about as fast as they are being built, proves just how strong the market for a new, affordable home is in Madras. The project near the old golf course site north of town will, hopefully, enjoy similar robust sales in 2021.

Certainly, housing pricing are steadily increasing in Jefferson County, even for the higher-end homes, which is great for those looking to sell. Plus, the microscopic interest rates make it a great time to buy. The fed is doing what it can to help bolster that vital element of our economy, and real estate has been a pandemic bright spot.

While Love's is the keynote project in Madras, other efforts have been busy this fall. The Reynosos are moving fast on their food court on Fifth and D streets. That project will add to other recent improvements along Fifth Street. On Sixth and B, Lyle Rewinkel recently remodeled and repainted his upholstery shop. Drive by if you haven't yet. It looks fabulous.

Downtown Madras keeps looking better and better.

Certainly, the pandemic has been tough to endure for a variety of reasons, but it cannot be said that it completely derailed the economy in Madras. It's been hard on a lot of businesses — the newspaper included — but overall, Madras seems to enduring just fine. We have a ways to go, for sure, but when we do emerge out of this era of the COVID, Madras will likely be in fine shape.

The pandemic was a face punch to the economy locally, nationally and worldwide. Here in Jefferson County, we lost 840 jobs, according to the state Employment Division, from last February. At the beginning of March, unemployment in the county was at 4.2%. Heading into October, it was 8.5%. But that figure is a strong improvement from the depths of the pandemic's hit. We have brought back about 35% of the jobs lost due to the pandemic and associated closures.

It's been stated here before but it bears repeating: The city of Madras and Jefferson County have both been active in fighting the economic damage head-on. Working independently and with Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council, and utilizing federal and state dollars, local government has helped stabilize the economy during COVID — and they keep doing so. There is currently a program routed through COIC and the city ready to grant funds right now. If you're in business and need help, contact the city, county or chamber, or check out COIC.org.

Meanwhile, the county just started a grant program to incentivize private industrial space construction (see page 3).

The community, economically at least, is working together to beat the pandemic.

After the divisive election season (which seems to have gone on for four years), and once this brutal pandemic makes it leave, Central Oregon will again be a bustling place. The restart should be big and exciting. It's good to know that the Madras area will be able to hit the ground running.


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