Cascade Views Podcast

Jon Stark - Building Central Oregon’s Economic Health

October 28, 2022 Michael Sipe - Central Oregon Leadership Discussions
Jon Stark - Building Central Oregon’s Economic Health
Cascade Views Podcast
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Cascade Views Podcast
Jon Stark - Building Central Oregon’s Economic Health
Oct 28, 2022
Michael Sipe - Central Oregon Leadership Discussions

Jon Stark, CEO of Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO). EDCO is a regional organization with community offices in Bend, La Pine, Madras, Prineville, Redmond, and Sisters. You can learn more about EDCO at  

Jon is responsible for leading the organization in accomplishing its mission to create a diversified local economy and a strong base of middle-class jobs in Central Oregon. EDCO accomplishes this by helping companies: Move. Start, and Grow. Jon’s work also includes numerous strategic initiatives to sustain and improve the business climate across Central Oregon including but not limited to education and workforce development, statewide legislative concepts and legislation, infrastructure and air service development, and business resource development. 

Jon is here to talk about EDCO overall, and his perspectives on the regional business community and economic prospects in the year ahead.

Show Notes Transcript

Jon Stark, CEO of Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO). EDCO is a regional organization with community offices in Bend, La Pine, Madras, Prineville, Redmond, and Sisters. You can learn more about EDCO at  

Jon is responsible for leading the organization in accomplishing its mission to create a diversified local economy and a strong base of middle-class jobs in Central Oregon. EDCO accomplishes this by helping companies: Move. Start, and Grow. Jon’s work also includes numerous strategic initiatives to sustain and improve the business climate across Central Oregon including but not limited to education and workforce development, statewide legislative concepts and legislation, infrastructure and air service development, and business resource development. 

Jon is here to talk about EDCO overall, and his perspectives on the regional business community and economic prospects in the year ahead.

Unknown Speaker  0:00  
I think it's unknown, you know what, what the change in the economy is going to be. Everybody said there is one, you know, coming ahead anytime you see, you know, inflation and the Feds increasing that interest rate but, you know, I think that if any evidence from the Great Recession proves to be true, it is to make sure your team is strong. Take advantage of these training dollars that are coming down from the state. And and you know, watch your cash flows.

Narrator  0:37  
Welcome to cascade views a discussion with Central Oregon leaders. Your host is Michael SIPE, local business and community leader Best Selling Author of the Avada principle and candidate for Oregon State Representative for House District 53, which encompasses southern Redman sisters today. Hello in northern Ben. The purpose of these discussions is to share the views and insights of local leaders from a variety of community sectors on a range of timely and important regional and state issues. With that now, here's your host, Michael SIPE.

Michael Sipe  1:11  
Thanks for joining us on cascade views. My name is Michael SIPE, and I'll be your host. My guest today is John Stark, CEO of economic development for Central Oregon EDCO. And CO is a regional organization with community offices in Bend lupine Madras Prineville, Redmond and sisters, you can learn more about EDCO at EDCO John is responsible for leading the organization in accomplishing its mission to create a diversified local economy and a strong base of middle class jobs in Central Oregon. EDCO accomplishes this by helping companies move start and grow. More on this Slater. John's work also includes numerous strategic initiatives to sustain and improve the business climate across Central Oregon including but not limited to education, and workforce development, state legislative concepts and legislation, infrastructure and air service development, and also Business Resource Development. John is here today to talk with us about EDCO overall, and his perspectives on the regional business community and economic prospects in the year ahead. As a local business leader, I've been in EDCO member over many years, and I've been looking forward to this talk for quite a while. So I'm excited to welcome John to the show. Hi, John.

Unknown Speaker  2:25  
Hi, Mike. Thanks again for the opportunity to participate in your podcast today. welcome the opportunity to share some insight Ted COE here.

Michael Sipe  2:33  
You bet I'm excited about it. Well, let's get started though. With a little background on you personally. Tell us just a little bit about John Stark.

Unknown Speaker  2:40  
Yeah, you bet. Well, I came to Central Oregon, in 1999. from Seattle, much like many people was vacationing here and decided that this was a place I wanted to live because of the recreation amenities. I love to ski fish hike. I do a little camping throughout that. And so my story is not unlike others. I'm an outdoor enthusiast. I love to exercise. And so running is incorporated with that hiking and I get outdoors. Just about every single weekend. In fact, this weekend, I'm headed down to the cowboy dinner tree to enjoy dinner and camp down there. I even winter camp. So we're pretty hearty folks here in Central Oregon and looking forward to the weather change here going in the fall.

Michael Sipe  3:28  
And I'll tell you after the cowboy dinner tree, you're gonna need to run a few miles because it is an experience for sure. Oregon experience? Oh, that's great. Well, how about a little history and overview on EDCO? Yeah, you

Unknown Speaker  3:43  
bet, Mike. So EDCO has been around since 1982. And really was founded by some community leadership here, many of which are still very engaged in the Central Oregon Community, really, some leaders that felt like, you know, the economic changes nationally, were impacting Central Oregon. And they wanted to change that. So to really look at how can we create an economy by design, rather than by chance. And through that EDCO was born in 1982 as a private nonprofit, 501 C six to really focus on industry diversification to help us weather economic storms in the future. And 40 years later, I can definitely tell you that through that work. We were able to weather and rebound faster than other parts of the state from the recession created by the pandemic.

Michael Sipe  4:36  
Sure I lived through that. And I watched that happen. And I watched that diversification that you were able to produce really right our ship much, much quicker than other places. So super grateful for that. You help. And EDCO specifically helps companies in three ways as I understand it, you group them into three buckets that you call move, start and grow. So let's start with this topic of moving. So how does that CO help companies move?

Unknown Speaker  5:06  
Well, I think it starts with the conversation with the company's leadership team. They inquire either through Business Oregon directly through our network or direct through EDCO, about what it's like to operate here in Bend. And so we're really a concierge to the community. We mined data, we provide information on workforce on logistics, on sites, so we do site selection in real estate, we help advise them on the permit process, if they're looking to build a facility, we help connect them to resources to get that building up, whether it be financing design, or development of that site. And so really, you know, companies come in, and then they don't know where to start. And so they start with us. And so we even have a meeting later today with a company that is looking at Central Oregon to make Central Oregon their home. And so they want to know, you know, what information we can provide to them to make a sound business decision. And it's really up to us to provide them solid information to help them be successful. Because, you know, a poor site selection without the right information can you know, take a company and so our job is really to take that interest, and accelerate it into a central Oregon siting decision. And we've done that dozens of times, year over year for the last 40 years here in Central Oregon.

Michael Sipe  6:29  
With great success, too, I think you probably have some employment stats on that, right? The the kind of the number of employees that had CCOs, or employment positions that you've been able to make possible.

Unknown Speaker  6:43  
Yeah, each three year strategic planning period, we've targeted anywhere from, you know, 250, during the great recession to 500 jobs. And we've continually exceeded that during those three year planning periods creating 1000s of jobs over the years. Here in Central Oregon, it's and it's not us that creates the jobs, the companies create the jobs, we just enable them to do that right through these resources, whether it be financial planning, permitting, or even business mentoring, getting them engaged with the right resources so that they can be successful, it's really our job when they have an interest to grow or move to really just make that happen. But the companies create the jobs. And we've been fortunate enough to have a pretty good run here, creating many 1000s of jobs over the last several decades.

Michael Sipe  7:31  
It's a tremendous service to our whole region. Let's shift to the another one of the things that you do. And that's how you help companies get started. And I think it's kind of timely, since we're just coming out of that annual Ben venture conference. It was good to see you there. And, and the party of death row was awesome. So let's make sure to talk about that a little bit as well. How do you help companies get started here in Central Oregon?

Unknown Speaker  7:53  
Yeah, great. Mikey. I think event venture conference is really the pinnacle of the work that we do, everything leads kind of to that. That said, not every company we support in the start, Division of our business makes it to the BBC stage, which is why we have pub talks nine of those a year. And those really is a celebration of entrepreneurship. So it helps us do our work by helping expose these entrepreneurs, their products and services to the public to get some people behind the growth of their company. BBC as really, the postdocs lead up to BBC and ITV adventure conference, while it celebrates entrepreneurship but also connects these businesses to investors, helps them refine their pitches for future investment, whether they're funded through PVC or not, and also helps them get people interested again, in their business in their products. This year has been venture conference awarded $665,000 through multiple venture and angel funds. And there'll be many sidecar deals that happened with these businesses, both the ones that received checks the day of the conference, and ones that perhaps didn't, as these deals, you know, kind of grow throughout the coming weeks. But the start side of things really starts again, with one business at a time one company leader, providing mentoring services attaching resources, were really a connector of those resources. We may provide direct mentoring, but we also may bring people in from our stable of experts to provide mentorship on the various aspects of their business growth. So they may be looking to penetrate a new market segment. And we'll bring mentors in that may have experience in that market segment, whether it be you know, food distribution, or, you know, sale of their product or commercialization of their product. So we really leverage the ecosystem that's here on the high desert and connect them to those resources to help their company accelerator grow.

Michael Sipe  9:51  
You know, over the years, one of the things I've noticed from the work you're doing with Ben venture conference, and I really saw it this year dramatically, which goes to your country Action. Comment is how many people are are being drawn to it from the northwest. I met people from all over the place, not just the Central Oregon Community, but there were investors and advisors and m&a Guys and and accountants and attorneys and just all sorts of professionals and business people and entrepreneurs from all over the Northwest. How are you accomplishing that?

Unknown Speaker  10:28  
Well, I think it starts by having quality companies there to pitch quality companies don't come if there's not a good source of funding. And so leveraging a broad range of funding, we had Portland Seed Fund there, we had Elevate Capital there, several other funds were there that even though they may not have invested, they were checking these companies out. So it starts with quality companies and quality funds that, you know, are well versed on, you know, emerging technologies, what's in and what's out. And then it's one of the best networking events of the year in Bend, and in Central Oregon. And, you know, you got folks that come just to the reception, for example, and may not make the conference, they're there for the networking opportunities to kind of stay on the front edge of what's happening in our economy, again, what's in and what's out what's happening with technology, you can really see that related to what's on stage at the bend venture conference in the funds that back then, well,

Michael Sipe  11:26  
well done. It's it's a gem of Central Oregon and Edie COEs to be credited for hosting that, let's take a look at the third aspect of the work that you do, which is how you help companies grow. And you alluded to that in a couple of different ways previously, but let's just sit on that for a minute and talk to us about how EDCO helps companies grow. Well,

Unknown Speaker  11:49  
similar to what I said before, you know, these companies don't always have a real estate person on board to start a project. So we've got a lot of companies that are in that sort of 10 to 25, and up to 50 employee companies that, you know, they they're ready to move into their own building and put an asset on their balance sheet. And there have been leasing space, for example, for a period of time. And so we really helped them kind of unpack what it is like to do a development project here on the high desert. And so a lot of that is business expansion related to equipment acquisition, and real estate acquisition. But it also has to do with some of the things I've mentioned logistics, but labor force is a big one today. And so, you know, companies today are competing in an environment that is highly competitive, both on the wage perspective and for employees. And so bringing Workforce Solutions, you know, lean efficiencies to these companies, you know, and then additionally, just generally, you know, how do I how do I improve my business, and we use a lot of partners work with a lot of stakeholders here on the high desert to do to provide those services, whether it be score or the SBDC. Or we connect them to, again, that stable of experts, not just for the start side of our business, but it really comes down to A to Z problem solving. So there is no problem too large for EDCO to take a look at. It's not always us that solves it will bring in resources and partners to help them solve it. And if we can't solve it, then you know, we'll work with the business to recognize that well, well, is there a pivot or a different angle that we could approach this, not all problems are solved, but we can't make us 97 I five corridor. And we will always have, you know, logistical problems, but we can recognize what those problems are related to those logistics, again, trying to get products out of Central Oregon on a Friday afternoon on any given, you know, weekend, here in Central Oregon. It's a busy time people are coming into town. And it's tough to navigate that, but understanding what the issues are helping our local communities address some of those logistical and transportation problems. That's the work of Edie go behind the scenes to really set the table. But at the end of the day, our job is to really mine resources to help companies solve these challenges.

Michael Sipe  14:06  
One of the things that I've heard you talk about a lot in regard to EDCO. And so I've kind of a two pronged question here. You have talked to me a lot about traded sector companies and why these businesses are important to our region. And I'd like you to kind of clarify that term. And then maybe segue into just a couple more highlights on the impact that EDCO has on the region, which is partly tied to this whole traded sector concept.

Unknown Speaker  14:33  
Yeah, so generally speaking, we're really focused on industry development, which is the traded sector and traded sector does not mean they're traded on the New York Stock Exchange or NASDAQ or anything like Trad traded sector generally refers to primary employers, those employers that generate wealth in our communities by exporting their products or services. So generally speaking, their customers are elsewhere and when they receive revenue by selling their product or services, that revenue is then spent through employment here on the high desert or through their supply chain. If you look at, you know, companies, for example, basics, right basics is a clean technology company that really delivers modularized product solutions in HVAC, heating, ventilation and air conditioning. And so their, their vendor list right there, their their payables file is largely Central Oregon companies, not all but you know, Central Oregon companies. And in their payables file, in addition to their workforce is pretty substantial. Dave Benson, the the founder of base x, and shared many years ago that their payables file is millions of dollars to companies here in the high desert. So now, in addition to that the employees are employed at their firm to serve that, you know, traded sector interest, also spend money in our local community. So if the primary sector or traded sector does well, it really, really raises, you know, all types. And if EDCO does well, in terms of recruiting, helping start and grow these companies, then our region grows economically.

Michael Sipe  16:13  
Well, this is a big job that you've got, how are you funded? And how do you have like, you know, big, massive government grants? Or how does how does that go get its money to be able to do all

Unknown Speaker  16:23  
this? You bet. Before I answer that, though, I think I wanted to share a little bit on a couple of the highlights. So I mentioned one business, but I didn't mention the list of them. So we have, you know, nearly 800 traded sector businesses, you can find it on our traded sector directory on our website, and growing and you know, there's over 400 and bend, there's, you know, almost 150, up in Redmond, and many more in smaller towns like Prineville, Madras and the counties that are north and east of us here, but those companies are large and small. We serve large companies like PCC, Slosher, Keith manufacturing up in Madras Nosler. We've helped Mehta Medline in Redmond Lonza, which is a pharmaceutical company here in Bend and then many small companies like Peltex, which is you know, right around that 20 employee company making plastic components for, you know, medical companies, they, you know, grew a ton during the pandemic, because of those sanitation stations that they have in virtually every business right, where you gotta get Santa hand sanitizer and have masks available, and altitude beverage that was a pep talk, pitch company that was you know, pre commercialization now is commercialized and been funded. And so it's small companies and large companies, I've named a number of them hundreds here on the high desert, that we've had the opportunity to touch and help scale and grow. So just, you know, we're privileged to have this opportunity, you know, funding wise, we've earned the trust of our public sector partners. So they both contract with us for services. And they are members of the organization, as are many private sector businesses here. So we're funded, you know, largely by private sector membership, public service contracts, and a few grants. And so we have near parity between public and private sector when we include earned revenues, such as events like our annual luncheon, you met, we talked about the Ben venture conference. So all told, were largely publicly and privately sector funded with some balance between those wins, including these events that we host. And so we couldn't do it without those public and private members and partners in the work that we do have earned the trust, year over year to garner the that support and we look forward to continuing those relationships and hopefully, enhancing them in the years to come. Well,

Michael Sipe  18:59  
speaking of membership, and I'm primarily talking about private membership, a lot of the people listening to this conversation today are owned small companies or medium sized companies here in Central Oregon. So tell us a little bit about how people can become EDCO members, and maybe what some of the benefits are, if you need to, after all the benefits we've just heard.

Unknown Speaker  19:20  
Yeah, thank you. Well, I think people, you know, kind of joined the EDCO way because, you know, we're kind of one of the few advocating for our economy. Here. Of course, you know, our state legislatures are advocating for the economy as well. And and our local government authorities or they wouldn't invest in EDCO. But the Eco way is also really leveraging these events to help us do our work, showcasing companies contributing to our economy both in the start, move and grow sections of our business. We have some of the best networking events in Central Oregon. We really do. We talk out the issues surrounding the economy, we advocate for, you know, business environment that allows our economy to thrive. And so really, people can become members one, to invest in our economy through EDCO. And to to network and help expose their business to other businesses here on the high desert. We do have member benefits related to attending these events on a member discount, as well as attending events and other communities. So because we're a regional community you can go to by being an eco member already event like the one we're having tonight, news and brews up in Redmond at Wild Ride brewery. So you know, there's an opportunity not only here in Ben, but throughout the region to leverage your Echo membership to attend these events, you know, more than 60 events each year, when you include all the things wrapped up in the pan venture conference, the pub talks, and then these other local events that are happening in smaller communities. So thanks for asking about membership, it is really the backbone of what drives EDCO. Without our membership and our public partners, we really couldn't do the work that we do on the high desert.

Michael Sipe  21:10  
Yeah, it's an incredible value to to be a member. And so I encourage our listeners to go to the Go info site, find out about membership, it's really an important way to participate in the Central Oregon economy. But speaking of that, let's talk now about the Central Oregon business climate. So as a CEO of EDCO, you have a very unique and valuable perspective, we've just been through almost three now really challenging pandemic years. And you were with EDCO the whole way through. What did you observe? And how did our business community fare?

Unknown Speaker  21:44  
Yeah, and I'll speak to the traded sector, I think it's no question at the retail service, leisure, hospitality industries, you know, were highly impacted based on the closures. And fortunately, you know, we went through the pandemic, our traded sector, businesses really weren't closed for any duration. So they they fared well, you know, we, as an organization tried to assist many other service providers, chambers of commerce, CIC, even the governor's regional solutions team and deploying resources to help prepare companies to operate in this in that level as a new environment for us in 2020. And, you know, we were actually surprised, so we were, you know, building out resource tools for how to we employ people and you know, temperature check them and, you know, clean our facilities to protect our employees. And by the time we kind of built that with those partners, these trendsetter businesses kind of already had it in place, because they had to survive, you know, and those traded sector companies, they compete on a very national highly competitive scale. And so they had already implemented, you know, temperature checks and reading the CDC guidelines. And already, you know, had people employed, they hired interns and staff to clean their facilities to walk around and you know, clean doorknobs, and make sure doorknobs were, you know, were cleaned, and then the all the facilities and the surfaces, and then temperature checks as they were aren't locked in. I'm just glad that they're not having to operate quite in that environment today, because that was a tough time, but they didn't fare well. And because through the pandemic, demand for goods went up and are still up today because of rising incomes. These companies fared pretty well, I'm not saying we didn't have changes, or you've heard some recent layoffs. And there's more analysis in the paper today. But that's not not a bad thing, either. Our employment markets been really tough on employers lately with low unemployment rates, hard to find people. And so I you know, I think that there's some welcome news ahead, maybe with some balance in the employment market, but our traded sector businesses generally fell, it fared pretty well, not to say they're not still climbing and scratching their way to profitability today. These CEOs today are solving problems on the fly so much more different than pre pandemic. It's a different set of issues, supply chain and logistics, how do I get my products to market? How am I going to get my raw materials in? Right? It's just a continual claw and scratch to profitability. But I think our businesses generally fared well. And it's, you know, certainly evidenced by rising incomes, corporate incomes, across the state and early some some news that I've heard from a couple of bankers that deposits on the high desert are way up over the previous years.

Michael Sipe  24:28  
Well, let's look ahead to 2023. Can you believe it's almost here? Oh, my. So what do you see coming down the pike for Central Oregon businesses in the next year or two? Well, I

Unknown Speaker  24:38  
referred to it a bit of it. I think we'll see some employment stabilization and Verlet related to the employment market. So I think it'll be a little easier to find some employees in 2023. I think cash will be king as the Fed continues to fight and stave off inflation with higher interest rates. So protecting cash flows is is going it'd be important. I think there'll be some opportunities. I think it'll be some opportunities to capitalize when some other companies may not, you know, be spending. We're not, you know, economist we don't forecast. You know, we actually listened to our economist Josh Lerner, the offensive economic analysis. And David Rosenberg, who is our former local economists now at business, Oregon, and the Institute of trend research out of California. And so you saw two quarters of GDP decline, you see, you we see that maybe there might be a slight increase in this latest third quarter GDP unknown yet, we're not an economist, but we still continue to see two things a strong labor market, people are hiring, and strong interest in Central Oregon. In fact, we've had a couple of really big weeks. Our partnership with Business Oregon, send another leads us here yesterday. And so when it rains, it pours in a good way right in Oregon. And so interest in Central Oregon from these companies looking to move here still continues to remain strong. And while we've seen a little bit lighter demand in the leasing market, I think that might be welcome when local companies have been looking for space for a while, a bit more as being delivered to market and sisters Redmond and Prineville. And we've seen some vacancies available here in Bend, which will be some relief to some companies that are have been in pain over the last several years needing additional space and needing additional employees. So take advantage of those opportunities related to you know, leveraging cash flow to make these investments in people in in space when available.

Michael Sipe  26:38  
Man, that's great advice. As we wrap up here today. What else should we know about EDCO? And what other suggestions might you have for business owners regarding succeeding in business in Central Oregon and navigating the next year or two?

Unknown Speaker  26:51  
Yeah, I think it's unknown, you know, what, what the change in the economy is going to be? Everybody said that there is one, you know, coming ahead, anytime you see, you know, inflation and the Feds increasing that interest rate. But, you know, I think that, if any evidence from the Great Recession proves to be true, it's make sure your team is strong. Take advantage of these training dollars that are coming down from the state. And in you know, watch your cash flows, you know, one of the best things you can do to start the new year, which is just a couple of months away is take that business plan out, what are my cash flows going to be make sure I have a solid Advisory Board, something that can give me broad perspective on the changing in economy. Not every business has an advisory board, but we recommend them to gain that perspective. And then take advantage of some of these training dollars that are coming down through the state through future ready Oregon to train your staff so that your team is optimized for any changing economic environment. So and then lastly, hey, look, I'm not gonna lie. Echo needs to grow. Our services continue to be in high demand. And the only way we draw we grow is through increased membership. And so take a look at becoming an eco member, if you're an existing member, look at increasing that membership that helps us deliver these solutions to our economy, and we welcome the opportunity to be of service.

Michael Sipe  28:18  
Great advice. John, it's been great having you on the show. I think my main takeaway is always every time I hang out with you. It's just the scope of investment and impact that it CO has in our region. And I'm really grateful for that. I appreciate your time. I appreciate your message today. Thanks for being on the show.

Unknown Speaker  28:35  
Mike, thanks so much for your time and appreciate the opportunity. You bet.

Michael Sipe  28:39  
My guest today has been John Stark, CEO of economic development for Central Oregon. You can learn more about John and EDCO at EDCO Thanks for tuning in.

Narrator  28:52  
Thanks for listening to cascade views with Michael SIPE. To find out more about Mike the upcoming election. The key issues he's focused on in his campaign to represent Central Oregon and Salem as a state representative. Visit www dot a voice for Central that's www dot a voice for Central You can get your own copy of Michael sites best selling book the Avada And finally, please vote in the upcoming election. Your Voice Matters