Author Archives: EDCO

EDCO Welcomes Kelsey Lucas as New Prineville/Crook County Director


BEND, Ore. (January 16, 2019) – Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) is pleased to welcome the addition of Kelsey Lucas as Prineville/Crook County Director, effective immediately.

In this role, Kelsey will be responsible for supporting EDCO’s mission of creating a diversified local economy and a strong base of middle-class jobs in Central Oregon, focusing her efforts in Prineville and Crook County. She will help guide employers outside the region through the relocation process of moving to the area, manage and help administer incentive programs and work closely with local traded-sector companies to help them grow and expand.

Her most recent experience working for The Johnson Family, one of New York City’s most successful investors and business owners, while simultaneously receiving her Master of Science in Marketing Research, shows her ability to complete complex projects.

“We continue to be blessed with a strong pool of applicants from across the country, and this search was no different,” noted Roger Lee, EDCO’s CEO. “Kelsey’s background in economic development, ties to Central Oregon and passion for this opportunity in Prineville made her a great fit.”

Kelsey received her Masters of Science in Marketing Research from Michigan State University, where she also completed her Bachelors of Arts in Marketing. An avid hiker, she recently relocated from New York City to Central Oregon to be closer to family. Her excitement about the economic potential of Prineville and the unwavering pride of its residents further fueled her decision.

Mid Oregon Personnel conducted the professional search for the Prineville/Crook County Director position on behalf of EDCO. It was spearheaded by its President, Greg Lambert, who is a longstanding EDCO Board and Executive Committee member representing Crook County. A hiring committee of local leaders representing different community and business perspectives reviewed and interviewed finalists as well as making the hiring recommendation.

About Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO)
EDCO is a non-profit corporation supported by private and public members and stakeholders, whose mission is to create middle-class jobs in Central Oregon by: recruiting new employers to move to the region; helping entrepreneurs start new, scalable businesses; and working with businesses already located here to grow their operations. For more information, visit

About Mid Oregon Personnel
Mid Oregon Personnel is a local Central Oregon staffing company with full-time offices in four major area communities: Bend, Redmond, Prineville, and Madras. Founded in 1984, Mid Oregon Personnel offers employers and employees customized service instead of applying a formula, aiming to fit the right person with each company’s culture, resulting in a higher retention rate than typical for the industry.

Laird Superfood Secures $32 Million in Private Funding Round

One of the fastest-growing companies in the natural-foods industry will use funding to expand product offerings, support acquisitions and add jobs across departments 

SISTERS, Ore. – January 11, 2019 – Laird Superfood, maker of assorted superfood products, secured $32 million in a private funding round that included WeWork as an investor. This latest round of funding will support an increase in product development, acquisitions and significant growth at Laird Superfood’s Sisters, Ore.-based headquarters.

“We are incredibly grateful to our investors and the community for their continued support. Our expansion will enable us to grow our product offerings, make room for even greater innovation and double down on our presence in the industry. This growth will add a great number of jobs in Sisters and the surrounding communities, across a variety of departments, and allow us to continue to stimulate our local economy,” said Paul Hodge, CEO and co-founder of Laird Superfood.

In conjunction with the investment from WeWork, Arik Benzino, WeWork’s Chief We Officer for the U.S., Canada & Israel, will join the Laird Superfood board of directors. Laird Superfood and WeWork will also launch a partnership to make Laird’s offerings available to WeWork members and employees in select locations in the U.S.

“I thank WeWork for their investment in Laird Superfood’s expansion and pursuit of our mission to become the leading superfood company in the natural foods space. At Laird Superfood, we think of our clean-ingredient products as fuel. With the right fuel, you can accomplish anything, and it’s in this way that our offerings perfectly complement the ambitious and entrepreneurial spirit of the WeWork community,” said Laird Hamilton, co-founder of Laird Superfood.

“Laird Superfood products give you the fuel you need for a productive life. Their holistic approach to life balance is aligned with our mission and vision here at WeWork. We could not be more excited to support this amazing company’s growth and at the same time make their incredible products available to our WeWork members and employees.” — Arik Benzino, WeWork Chief We Officer for the U.S., Canada & Israel and Laird Superfood Board Member.

About Laird Superfood

Laird Superfood, Inc. creates award-winning, all-natural superfood products that are both delicious and functional. The company’s products are designed to naturally keep you fueled throughout your day.

The company was co-founded in 2015 by the world’s most prolific big-wave surfer, Laird Hamilton. His passion project to perfect his personal regimen grew into a dynamic, innovative brand with a mission to bring clean, simple, and thoughtfully formulated superfoods to the masses. As one of the fastest growing companies in the natural foods space, Laird Superfood’s offerings are environmentally sustainable, responsibly tested, and made with whole-food ingredients that everyone can feel good about.

Whether you’re a high-performance athlete, a busy parent or an ambitious entrepreneur, Laird Superfood’s products give you the fuel to accomplish anything – no matter the mission – from sunrise to sunset. Shop all products online at and join the Laird Superfood community on social media for the latest news and daily doses of inspiration.

Last Central Oregon PubTalk of the Year

2018 PubTalk Speakers Announced


BEND, OR (November 13, 2018)Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) announced the speakers for the last PubTalk of the year, this Thursday, November 15, 5 pm at McMenamins in Downtown Bend. Tickets are on sale now and available via Eventbrite here.

EDCO’s Central Oregon PubTalk is a happy hour aimed at bringing together different facets of the business community in one place to network, share ideas and further local businesses.

Keynote Speaker

Nate Wildfire, Director, Oregon Growth Board & Capital Strategist, Business Oregon
Nate’s work with the Oregon Growth Board and Business Oregon helps to improve and grow Oregon businesses. He is currently managing a $180 million investment fund meant to grow access to capital for Oregon businesses and provide returns to the state. Nate’s keynote will discuss how the State of Oregon is fostering entrepreneurship and innovation through different initiatives and how local companies can tap into that ecosystem. With experience in community and economic development, Nate is working with the state to improve access to capital to help businesses grow.

Company Pitches

McKenna Dempsey, Founder, Mandala Mission
McKenna Dempsey of Mandala Mission recently took home the First Place Award at the 2018 BendTECH unConference. With a goal to change the way young women think about their mental wellness, McKenna created the mobile app and initiative that helps young women manage anxiety and depression through exercises, goals, and intention setting. The app works to change the way we interact with our mental health by adjusting our monthly, weekly, and daily habits. After school programs for teens and events that bring women together will be implemented with the success of the app.

Mark Shenfield, Founder, PAWKET TREATS
Dogs love to get treats when they’ve done something good, just as dog owners want to train their dogs to behave well. When you’re out and about it’s hard to carry dog treats in your pocket or purse without making a mess. Mark Shenfield sought to eliminate the problem of messy treats and create an environmentally friendly solution to carrying them. He then created PAWKET TREATS, the all natural, portable dog treats that fit in your pocket without the crumbs.

Company Update

Moriel Arango, Co-founder and CTO, BladeRunner Energy
The 2017 Bend Venture Conference Early Stage Winner is back to present on the PubTalk Stage. BladeRunner Energy’s fish-friendly micro-hydro solution limits the need for a dam, helping transition towards sustainable power while accounting for environmental impact. Their technology harnesses the power found in the natural flow of water by using a proprietary rotor with design lines inspired by the natural motion of fluid for enhanced efficiency. The BladeRunner team recently made headlines by winning the 2018 Cascadia CleanTech Accelerator Standout Company Award. Read more about their achievements here.

5:00 pm to 6:00 pm Networking – Drinks and appetizers
6:00 pm to 6:45 pm Company Presentations
6:45 pm to 7:30 pm Keynote Speaker

Cost and Registration
$25 EDCO & OEN Members
$35 Non-Members
Become an EDCO Member here.
Admission includes appetizers and a free beverage (choice of beer, wine, or soda).

Title Sponsors
2017 PubTalk Title Sponsors Columbia Bank, Karnopp Peterson, University of Oregon, Velox Systems



GROW: Q&A with Oregon Craft Chocolatiers

Bend, Ore. – November 18, 2018 – Ron Smith decided to bring a fresh perspective to chocolate making with the new Oregon Craft Chocolatiers in Bend, Oregon. Since taking ownership, Ron’s primary goal for the store has been to change the customer experience by updating the look, feel and re-charting the direction of their chocolate products. They have implemented improvements to recipes by deleting artificial flavors and colors, replacing them with all natural and essential oil flavorings wherever possible. They are creating new flavor combinations to tempt palates far and wide while expanding their product offerings to include Artisan Barks, essential oil infused disks, Tipsy Truffles and more. EDCO recently sat down with Ron to take a bite out of this new Bend business.

EDCO: Tell us about your business background.
RS: For nearly my entire career I have worked for family or personal businesses ranging from real estate development, technology to healthcare. Yet, I have had a long desire to try to build a product-based business and establish a respected brand within a community.

EDCO: What inspired you to invest in this business?
RS: I viewed it as an opportunity to build the product-based business that I have longed to build. The fact it’s based on chocolate is a huge bonus. I became intrigued by the nutritional aspects of cacao some time ago while completing my first degree in biochemistry. Ever since, I have been a bit of a choco-nerd. Today, the chocolate industry is going through an interesting transformation providing new opportunities for small companies like ours to make single-origin craft cacao chocolate bars. By sourcing unique beans from all over the world, we are able to optimize and celebrate the diversity of cacao, much like coffee, and share that experience with our community.

Ronald Smith at a farm

Owner Ronald Smith

EDCO: Why do you wish to continue to grow your business in Central Oregon?
RS: Central Oregon provides a unique, high-quality of life for those fortunate to call it home. It also maintains a dynamic and vibrant entrepreneurial community.

EDCO: What projects are you currently working on?
RS: As part of our ongoing store remodel, we acquired and implemented new tempering, enrobing, molding machines and craft chocolate making equipment. We are now ready to begin a sales, marketing and awareness campaign. Over the past year, we have worked hard quietly transforming the business with new equipment, modernizing and improving nearly every aspect. Now it’s finally time for us to invite the community in and experience who we are and what we are doing.

EDCO: What’s different about the Central Oregon business community than other communities?
RS: What I feel is unique about the business community here is the diversity in backgrounds, the creativity and collegial spirit among its members.

EDCO: How has this community helped you thrive?
RS: We truly are just getting started as the new chocolate company we are today. In general, I would say the passion of this community for those who make and create locally is inspiring.

EDCO: Tell us more about your chocolates and where we can get them?
RS: We are making responsibly sourced single origin cacao chocolate bars including vegan options. Currently, our chocolate is found in our nearly 3000 sq/ft factory store located in the Wagner Mall and in Sisters at Spoons and Ear Expressions.

For more information on how EDCO can help you grow your business in Central Oregon, click here or call (541) 388-3236.

The Local’s Story: InvestiPro

Composite Approach

The Local’s Story: InvestiPro

The third video in our Local’s Story series highlights a company that won big at the 2017 Bend Venture Conference.

Follow the story of InvestiPro‘s founder, Dana Barbato, as she goes from a Human Resources professional in the restoration sector to running her own company. Her cloud-based platform guides HR professionals through workplace investigations in a compliant and consistent manner.

See just how Dana started InvestiPro and how it’s creating jobs in Central Oregon.

Thank you to our video partners for making this series possible:

EDCO Releases Largest Employers List for Central Oregon

New Team Member

Data compiled by EDCO Shows Top Public & Private Regional Employers

BEND, Ore. – May 7, 2018 – Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) is pleased to announce the 2018 Largest Central Oregon Employers, complete with breakouts of the top employers in each Central Oregon community. This data, collected by EDCO annually for nearly the past 20 years, is the most comprehensive major employer list in Central Oregon.

This year, the top 50 private companies collectively employ more than 21,000 Central Oregonians, or roughly 19% of the region’s current total employment of 111,427. St. Charles Health System tops the list again, employing over 4,100 people region-wide.

According to Damon Runberg, Regional Economist at the Oregon Employment Department, 78% of Oregon establishments had nine or fewer employees and the average private establishment employed 11 people in 2018.

“A big ‘thank you’ to all the tri-county companies, non-profits, cities and counties that provided information for these lists,” said Roger Lee, CEO of EDCO. “While our economy is dominated by small employers, the region has, over time, also attracted and grown some significant employers.”

EDCO often fields requests about the employment base and largest private employers from both traded-sector companies (manufacturers, high technology, and some professional service companies) and non-traded sector (retail and commercial businesses, education, healthcare, hospitality, construction, etc.) looking to evaluate the region for investment and new or expanded operations. EDCO’s regional list focuses on private (for-profit and non-profit) employers while those at the community level include both private and public employees.

“It is a significant undertaking to gather this data, however, we believe it is useful information from which trends can be seen on an employer-by-employer level, as well as shifts in the overall economy,” said Elise Rossman, Director of Marketing and Communications for EDCO.

To download the lists in their entirety, click the links below:
Central Oregon Largest Private Employers
Bend Largest Employers
Redmond Largest Employers
Jefferson County Largest Employers
Crook County Largest Employers
Sisters Largest Employers
La Pine/Sunriver Largest Employers

Data for the lists is self-reported and not audited, and is to be used as an informational guideline. Some businesses chose not to participate in these lists and are therefore excluded.

About Economic Development for Central Oregon
EDCO is a non-profit corporation supported by private and public members and stakeholders, whose mission is to create middle-class jobs in Central Oregon by: recruiting new employers to move to the region; helping entrepreneurs start new, scalable businesses; and working with businesses that are already here to grow their operations. For more information, visit

The Local’s Story: Composite Approach

Composite Approach

The Local’s Story: Composite Approach

The second video in our Local’s Story series is here!

Redmond’s Composite Approach takes interns into the fold with help from Youth Career Connect‘s Central Oregon Internship Program. OSU-Cascades student Sam Stout expects to continue on his career path with the company while continuing with his engineering degree.

For more information on local internship opportunities, visit Youth Career Connect‘s website.



Thank you to our video partners for making this series possible:

We’re Hiring – Business and Event Development Intern

We're Hiring Prineville Economic Development Directo

We’re Hiring – Business and Event Development Intern

–Position has been filled–

EDCO’s currently looking for our newest (and some say most important) team member. Are you looking for an experience that’s never dull? This position will give the right candidate one-of-a-kind, hands-on experience and exposure to Central Oregon’s broad business community.

EDCO produces monthly Central Oregon PubTalks, the Annual Bend Venture Conference, the Civil War Rally & Auction and many other events. This position will help promote and execute some of the best-known events in Central Oregon.

Want more info on the position and how to apply? The full description can be downloaded below!

Business and Event Development Intern 2018


About Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO)
Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) is a non-profit corporation supported by private and public members and stakeholders, whose mission is to create middle-class jobs in Central Oregon by: recruiting new employers to move to the region; helping entrepreneurs start new, scalable businesses; and working with businesses that are already here to grow their operations. For more information, visit

On-The-Job Training Comes to Redmond

Youth Career Connect Student At Work

Economic Development for Central Oregon, working with YouthCareer Connect, is placing students in meaningful internships in Redmond. Below is a recent article from the Redmond Spokesman on our newly appointed Internship Coordinator, Larry Holeman.

Reprinted with permission from the Redmond Spokesman:

Sam Stout, a junior energy systems engineering student at Oregon State University-Cascades, didn’t have to go far to find on-the-job training.

He is working as an intern at Composite Approach, a company that designs and builds composite aircraft, vehicles and other items near Redmond Municipal Airport. He said the company gives him unique experience that he might not otherwise get.

“Everybody is pretty easy to get along with,” Stout said. “They have a nice family dynamic that a lot of other businesses don’t often have.”

The pairing of Stout and Composite Approach is one of three put together so far by Larry Holeman, Redmond Internship Coordinator for Economic Development Central Oregon. His job is part of Youth CareerConnect, a partnership between Central Oregon businesses, schools, governments and nonprofits.

The program, which is designed to improve job opportunities for students, while providing skilled workers, started in Redmond for the 2017-18 school year. Holeman works with Redmond and Ridgeview high schools, Redmond Proficiency Academy, Central Oregon Community College and OSU-Cascades in placing students in area businesses.

“They get involved in the next generation of workers,” Holeman said. “It’s forming a better and tighter community. I see it already.”

The internship program is expected to continue growing in 2018, Holeman said.

“We’ve got a lot of companies that want to wait until the start of the year,” he said.

Sam Meier, vice president of operations for Composite Approach, wanted to take part in the internship program both to invest in the community and to get young people interested in composites.

“Teaching kids how to think is more important to us than actually learning about composites,” Meier said. “Understanding the ‘why’ is more important than the ‘how to.’ ”

Stout and other students got emails letting them know about interest from companies like Composite Approach. He was excited to learn about the company.

“I looked them up and saw all the cool stuff they were working on,” Stout said.

Stout has been working on a program for a computer numerical control router that Composite Approach’s 30 employees haven’t had time to do. That frees up time for the other employees to work on other tasks.

Such experience is hard to get in school, Stout said.

“They don’t teach you any of that stuff, even as an engineer,” he said. “Unless you’ve gone to school to be a CNC technician, you don’t really learn that stuff. They don’t teach work culture at school. They don’t teach you a lot of things that are really valuable in the workplace.”

Composite Approach is flexible with Stout’s schedule, which Holeman said is common in the internship program. Students can work after school a few days a week during the school year and spend more time on the job during breaks.

Ridgeview sophomore Skyler Black, 16, was picking up some extra hours over the recent winter break at Risse Racing, not far from Composite Approach. He was helping remove oil from used bicycle shocks that the company rebuilds.

“We’re just getting him up to speed on different things,” owner Kevin Risse said of Black, who started about a month ago. “It helps to have another person who can get training. I don’t think they have a bicycle shock suspension program anywhere. It’s a little specialized.”

Like all companies, Risse Racing keeps students away from heavy machinery they are not trained for, leaving those tasks to its six employees.

Black is interested in working on bicycles for a living, so the experience he gets is important, he said.

“My dad’s the one who got me interested in being a bike mechanic,” he said. “The school got me into the program, and I’ve been working here ever since.”

Students also earn school credits from the program. “Basically, you can work, you’re getting paid and you’re getting school credit,” Holeman said.

Youth CareerConnect has similar internship programs with directors in Bend and Madras. The program has a goal of having 160 interns in the region within a year.

The positions are filling up. Holeman said he has interviews this week for four internship positions and is working to fill 18 more.

Risse advises companies to give Holeman a call.

“It’s a tight labor market, you can get someone you can teach good skills,” he said. “Everybody’s getting older, so we’ve got to get some fresh blood.”

— Reporter: 541-548-2186,