Author Archives: EDCO

Prineville-based SherpTek receives Excellence in Economic Development Award

SherpTek is the first automotive outdoor industry company in Prineville and the company worked hand-in-hand with Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) to effectively facilitate their 150-mile relocation to the Crook County community. After 13 trips over a mountain pass in the dead of winter to transport gear, they took occupancy and became operational in early Q2 of 2022. The project received the Oregon Economic Development Association’s Excellence in Economic Development: Business Development Success Story Award.

SherpTek was founded in the spirit of adventure, quality design and a love for life and the outdoors.  When searching for a new SherpTek HQ, the company placed an emphasis on the ability of their staff, founders and customers to have easy access to a plethora of outdoor adventures.  Prineville met that need by offering proximity  to several outdoor activities in the nearby high desert, including the Barnes Butte trail system, campgrounds along the Crooked River and Prineville Reservoir, Smith Rock State Park, and the Ochoco National Forest. In addition to offering access to outdoor activities, Prineville also offered affordable industrial space, expedited permitting, a regional hub of composite companies, a skilled manufacturing labor pool, as well as local incentives.

SherpTek was among the first tenants to take occupancy in the redeveloped Woodgrain mill site – rebranded the “Prineville Campus” – which had been closed and inoperable for years after previously being one of the top employers and sole industries in Prineville for decades. A group of developers from Las Vegas purchased the 56-acre property, demolished the dilapidated buildings on the site, and have since began upgrading the ~200,000sf of existing building space to usable spec industrial space since the purchase, with additional building pads for new development.

The SherpTek team includes dedicated designers, engineers and professionals who work hard and play hard. They employ a small and growing team of motivated people who make flatbeds, truck decks and an endless number of accessories to improve the adaptability of various pickup trucks for outdoor adventures. By utilizing composite aerospace materials, their products are lightweight and still strong enough to haul a 5,000-pound camper across rough terrain. The modular system integrated into their products facilitates the quick and easy addition of interchangeable accessories and utilizes often-lost storage space along the side of the truck bed when a camper is in place.

The entire Central Oregon region is an outdoor mecca for visitors and residents, which has brought a cluster of outdoor products companies to the area, which has benefited from the broadening of industries that call the area home, including high technology, advanced manufacturing, building products, bioscience, brewing, general aviation, renewable energy, and more.

SherpTek was one of Prineville’s first companies to pitch at EDCO’s Central Oregon PubTalk, hosted each month at Silver Moon Brewing. Since moving their operation to Prineville in the first half of 2022, SherpTek has ingrained itself into the entrepreneurial fabric of the region. While new to the area, they are already expanding into new space, hiring additional employees and training high school students on their specialized processes and products.  SherpTek is also purchasing new equipment a newly acquired building located adjacent to their current operations, which will help them vertically integrate many of their processes and slash production times from approximately 6-to-8 weeks to 6-to-8 days.

This project has been and continues to be supported by many local and State partners, including EDCO, City of Prineville, Crook County, Business Oregon, COIC/Worksource, OMEP, SBDC, SCORE, as well as financial and supply chain partners.  Support services that have been provided include, but are not limited to: business financing, site selection, permitting assistance, Enterprise Zone approval, CIP utilization, internship coordination, staffing, pitch coaching, venture funding opportunities/structure, network connections, and scaling assistance.

Member Spotlight: CiES

CiES aviation images

Have you ever noticed in movies, anytime something goes wrong with an airplane, the pilot starts tapping on the fuel gauge? As Scott Philiben, President of Bend-based CiES explains, “That actually comes about because small to medium size aircraft haven’t been able to reliably and effectively measure fuel.”

The problem is so well known across the industry that pilots are taught not to trust their fuel gauge but to rely instead on calculations of their aircraft’s fuel burn per flight hour. According to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) ’23.1337(b), “the gauge cannot be depended upon for checking the fuel quantity in a tank. This is especially true of smaller, less sophisticated general aviation aircraft. Visual or physical checking or both are the only safe means of determining the actual quantity of fuel onboard such aircraft.”

Philiben launched CiES in 2010 after working with industry partner Cirrus to solve this critical problem by using patented digital sensor technology that allows accurate fuel measurements to be displayed on screen in the cockpit.  “If pilots have accurate information in the cockpit, they are able to make better decisions about when they need to land,” said Philiben.

Over the last decade, the Bend-based company has grown to be the largest supplier of fuel quantity measuring systems in the world. CiES provides fuel-sensing systems to new aircraft manufacturers and is certified for retrofitting dozens of older airplane models. CiES’ magnetic field sensing technology is the preferred product for Garmin Aviation Displays and is used by customers around the world including Cirrus, Cessna and Daher aircrafts.

The company saw a 40% growth in sales in 2020 – 2021 and has sold over 100,000 units since 2010, bringing an estimated $50 million in revenue back into the local economy. According to a recent article in Fortune, private aviation has seen record growth since the start of the pandemic with monthly private flights up 30% since 2019.

Philiben explained that a growing interest in private aircraft travel for convenience as well as modernization of aircraft that makes it less daunting to learn how to fly have created a real boom market for small aircraft manufacturers.

“Personal aviation transportation is an emergent technology field. There are billions of dollars in investment being made by major players in the transportation industry, such as Toyota, Boeing, Airbus, and major airlines. A growing part of this push is autonomous flight; requiring no pilot or pilot skills to operate a plane.”

Philiben continued, “CiES basically builds intelligent and accurate sensing systems. This core capability is being expanded into a larger range of products like angle of attack, haptic systems, throttles, and flight controls. These systems and interfaces as well as accurate fuel quantity will be necessary for safe autonomous or semi-autonomous flight.”

Central Oregon offers the right mix of talent and resources to attract a diverse group of aviation companies to operate in the area. With three General Aviation and Commercial/GA airports and a growing regional airport, the aviation industry has an important place in the region with companies like Stratos Aircraft, KDE Direct, Kawak Aviation, Composite Approach, Epic Aircraft, and RDD Enterprises all calling Central Oregon home.

As a Titanium level EDCO member, CiES is actively engaged in fostering continued industry growth and diversification in Central Oregon. Next year, CiES will move into the former KOHD studio building in Bend, which will allow them to do more intensive manufacturing in-house. The company is looking to bring an electric braking system to market amid growing sales in parcel delivery and marine and helicopter sensing systems.

Philiben spoke of future innovation, saying, “CiES is positioned ideally as an FAA-certified manufacturing facility and is presently working with several manufacturers to support a larger range of products. We are continuing to see double-digit expansion and growth, especially as we move into our new facility next year. You think it’s a small market, but we really captured an interesting niche that has allowed us to scale very organically.”

Seven Companies Receive Investments at the 2022 Bend Venture Conference

BEND, Ore. – October 23, 2022 – Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) hosted the 19th Annual Bend Venture Conference (BVC) at the Tower Theatre in Downtown Bend. During the conference, 14 finalists presented their ideas and business models to an audience of hundreds in hopes of gaining investment from prominent funds. Of those finalists, seven companies were awarded a total of $665,000 in investments. Additional investment deals are still being finalized.

“After months of meetings between our companies and investors, it is hugely rewarding to see the response. Companies and investors from around the country have been exposed to Bend and we’ll continue to foster these relationships and offer resources and support,” explained Deanne Buck, EDCO’s Venture Catalyst. “This program wouldn’t be possible without our partners and Oregon-based funding entities including Portland Seed Fund and Elevate Capital.”

Each fall, the BVC LLC fund and the BVC Impact LLC fund are raised from individual investors to invest in the conference Growth Stage and Impact finalists. Beginning in August, applicants for both tracks began meeting with investors from both funds. Meanwhile, applicants in the Early Stage track were evaluated by investors at Portland Seed Fund, who have led the BVC Early Stage investment since 2018.

Jenn Lynch, Fund Manager for the BVC Growth Stage and Impact funds, said, “The BVC Conference Fund investors were so impressed with the caliber of the businesses that elected to pitch. The investors put in a significant amount of work in the weeks preceding the conference – they’re truly invested in these businesses in more ways than one. We’re thrilled to welcome these new companies to the BVC Fund portfolio and look forward to their success.”

This year’s award breakdown is as follows:

Growth Stage

The Growth Stage Competition is for companies that have a proven concept and initial revenues. The finalists that walked away with investment awards this year are:

  • Minnow Technologies (Seattle, WA) – A cloud-connected delivery hub (called a “pod”) that makes food delivery efficient and reliable was awarded $185,000 from the BVC LLC.
  • Wild Rye (Sun Valley, ID) – A women’s outdoor brand crafting beautiful and technical mountain apparel that fits, inspires confidence and welcomes more women into the outdoors was awarded $65,000 from the BVC LLC.


The Impact Competition features for-profit companies with integrated social or environmental missions. The companies that received investments this year are:

  • Ethicann Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Bethesda, MD) – A biotechnology company developing high-value, cannabinoid-based drug therapies using a development strategy of reformulating approved drugs into safer and equally efficacious drugs was awarded $60,000 from the BVC Impact LLC.
  • Photon Marine (Portland, OR) – A company that designs and develops an electric outboard motor system and intelligent fleet management software for commercial boat fleets was awarded $45,000 from the BVC Impact LLC, with follow on investments of $150,000 from Elevate Innovation Gap Fund II and $40,000 from Portland Seed Fund.

Early Stage

Each year Portland Seed Fund (PSF) commits to writing a $30,000 check to at least one BVC Early Stage company. Steve Eichenlaub and Angela Jackson, Managing Directors of Portland Seed Fund IV, evaluated applications and met with founders over the last few months.

“We were blown away. The quality gets better each and every year. In the end, we ended up writing four $40,000 checks,” exclaimed Jackson.

Ultimately, Portland Seed Fund IV awarded $160,000 across four finalists – three Early Stage and one Impact – at Friday’s conference. These companies will join the ranks of Clean Age and Reperio as Portland Seed Fund IV’s latest investments.

The BVC Early Stage companies that received investments are:

  • (Portland, OR) – An OTT app for Latinos that solves the problem of the lack of Latino news, opinion and sports on Roku, IOS and Android was awarded $40,000 from PSF.
  • Osheru (Bend, OR) – A device that simplifies upper eyelid surgery to make this vision and appearance enhancing procedure available to anyone was awarded $40,000 from PSF.
  • Range Revolution (Madras, OR) – The world’s first leather luggage company using only traceable and regenerative hides was awarded $40,000 from PSF.

**All investments are awarded following considerable due diligence of each of the presenting finalists. Investments and follow-on deals are still being finalized.

About Bend Venture Conference (BVC)
The Annual BVC, hosted by EDCO, is one of the largest angel conferences in the country. Over the past 19 years, BVC has served to evolve and grow the startup ecosystem throughout Central Oregon and across the Pacific Northwest. Since its inception, more than $11 million has been invested in 52 companies as a result of the conference. This year’s conference gathered entrepreneurs, investors, business leaders, and students at the Tower Theatre in Bend, Oregon on October 20-21, 2022.

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Meta Champions Workforce Development in Central Oregon with $250,000 Grants

October 14, 2022 (Prineville, Ore.) – Four Central Oregon entities—East Cascades Works, Crook County School District, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and EDCO’s Youth CareerConnect—are receiving grants totaling $250,000 from Meta to support youth workforce development and career skills training across Central Oregon. The funding bolsters the Central Oregon component of Future Ready Oregon, a new statewide workforce investment package, and aims to increase career training for priority populations in Central Oregon, including people of color, members of tribes and people in rural communities.

Approximately $3.8 million of the $200 million Future Ready Oregon initiative has been allocated to the East Cascades workforce area—which includes 10 counties east of the Cascades—as part of the initiative’s Prosperity 10,000 program, which will provide career coaching, occupational training, job placement services and more to at least 10,000 Oregonians. With Meta’s support, that investment is now over $4 million. Registered apprenticeship programs, youth programs, and workforce readiness grants supported by Meta’s funding will prioritize construction, manufacturing and technology sectors.

“Meta is proud to be a part of Central Oregon since we broke ground on our Prineville Data Center in 2010, and we’re also a huge supporter of workforce development and STEM-related Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs,” said William Marks, community development manager at Meta. “We saw a unique opportunity to help increase the impact of Future Ready Oregon in Central Oregon and provide more work-based learning opportunities for underrepresented groups, and we’re thrilled to partner with East Cascades Works, Crook County School District, Confederated Tribes of Warms Springs and Youth CareerConnect for this program.”

“We are so fortunate in Central Oregon to have Meta as a partner to help cultivate our homegrown talent pipeline. Young people will have more opportunities to explore and launch in their career pathway in Central Oregon, thanks to Meta’s generosity,” said Heather Ficht, executive director of East Cascades Works.

The specific funding allocation, administered by and through East Cascades Works, includes:

  • Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs ($50,000) – Support for the expansion of their workforce and education programming around career exposure, work readiness training, skill building and advanced training opportunities.
  • Crook County School District ($50,000) – Funding for a STEM and graphic design lab build-out, including materials and equipment, to ensure youth have access to relevant leading-edge technologies.
  • East Cascades Works ($100,000) – Support for emergent workforce and special populations—including English language learners, justice-impacted individuals and BILAPOC-identified individuals—through programs that help increase wages for those who are employed and/or career attachment for those not working, with a special focus on target industry careers in technology, construction, manufacturing and health care.
  • Youth CareerConnect ($50,000) – Support for this Central Oregon internship program that focuses on retaining young talent and work readiness training for people ages 16 to 24.

“This generous donation from Meta helps equip Crook County students with the most up-to-date technology,” said Joel Hoff, assistant superintendent of Crook County School District.Meta’s continued support helps ensure that every Crook County student graduates college- and career-ready.”

Member Spotlight: The Partners Group

Independent and Privately Owned – Founded in the Northwest in 1981, The Partners Group helps businesses and individuals solve problems and grow through custom strategies in insurance, employee benefits, and financial consulting. Headquartered in Oregon, TPG has grown to over 200 employees, with offices in Oregon, Washington, Texas, and Idaho, and is ranked one of the Top 100 largest insurance brokerage firms in the United States. Today, TPG is the largest independent brokerage firm in the Pacific Northwest, with an office in Bend for nearly 20 years. John Hartz, Partner at TPG, joined the company and the Bend community with his family in 2016.

As EDCO members, John and his team have built a reputation for coordinating employee benefits and commercial insurance strategies for companies around Central Oregon. Local industries include hospitals, healthcare clinics, non-profits, hospitality, manufacturing, and breweries, to name a few.

Trends in Benefits and Administration

Attracting and retaining top talent has always been a key focus for employers, now more than ever with the challenges presented by COVID-19, remote workforces, cost of living, competitive compensation packages, and so on. Benefit programs can be the deciding factor for savvy job applicants, while comprehensive benefit plans and strategies can make all the difference for employers. Benefit administration, online enrollment, and benefit education are always hot topics. Low- to no-cost benefit choices in addition to core benefits offered by employers for employees are also important pieces of the overall benefits picture (i.e., robust employee assistance programs [EAP], mental health programs, supplemental health benefits, income protection, life insurance, fertility and family-forming benefits, tuition reimbursement, pet insurance, etc.).

Paid Leave Oregon – Coming Soon!

TPG is heavily focused on helping our clients prepare for Paid Leave Oregon, a new payroll tax that will provide family and medical leave benefits to all eligible workers (payroll deductions begin January 1, 2023 – benefit payments begin September 3, 2023). TPG provides their clients a Financial Impact Analysis that estimates the cost of the tax to the employer and employee based on their number of eligible employees and helps determine if an equivalent plan makes sense. Taking a proactive approach to this new legislation has proven to be helpful for employers to understand their options, in addition to understanding the financial impacts.

Serving the Central Oregon Region

As John explains, “TPG is a purpose-driven, employee-owned organization that strives to make a difference in our communities through our work and inspire others to do the same.” In 2020, TPG set a Give30 goal to give back $30 million in time and funds to our communities, and we are well on our way. Learn more at

2022 Growth and Impact Stage Semifinalists Announced

bend venture conference banner

September 15, 2022 – Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) announced the semifinalist companies advancing in the Growth and Impact Stage competitions for the 19th Annual Bend Venture Conference (BVC) on Thursday, October 20 – Friday, October 21, 2022.  The nine semifinalists in the Early Stage competition category were announced earlier this week.

Each year, new BVC Growth and Impact funds are raised to invest in the most promising ​companies that compete in the annual conference.  In the weeks preceding the conference, investors meet with ​semifinalist companies at a series of pitch meetings to narrow the companies to a list of finalists, which will be announced ​in early October.  ​Following the due diligence process, investors determine which finalists will receive investments from the funds at the Bend Venture Conference on October 21.

“Since 2007, the BVC Funds have supported 28 great companies and founding teams in an effort to grow the investment ecosystem in Central Oregon,” said Jenn Lynch, BVC Growth and Impact Fund Manager.  “We’re already hard at work this fall looking at these great new companies in search of our next winner.”

The semifinalists below have one more round of cuts to go before qualifying to present at this year’s conference. Companies have historically won investments ranging from $100,000 to $2,500,000.

In alphabetical order, the BVC Growth Stage semifinalists are:

  1. Altitude Functional Beverages (Bend, OR) – A functional beverage producer incorporating CBD into routine-based beverages like coffee and alcohol replacements.
  2. Bluebird CX (Vancouver, WA) – An automated gifting platform that partners with swag sellers to reach more customers faster.
  3. Cannecht (Bend, OR) – A digital marketplace to help cannabis operators find and secure service contracts with trusted providers.
  4. Clean Age (Portland, OR) – Gender inclusive, natural, sustainable personal care products that give teens and preteens the essentials they need to help them establish healthy habits.
  5. Healers Petcare, Inc. (Vancouver, WA) – An innovative pet products company that engineers, manufactures, and markets a full range of pet health products.
  6. Minnow Technologies (Seattle, WA) – A cloud-connected delivery hub (called a “pod”) that makes food delivery efficient and reliable.
  7. Phenix Solutions, Inc. (McMinnville, OR) – Professional aviators that design, certify, and manufacture heavy lift, remote piloted aircrafts and specialized equipment used for unmanned aerial missions.
  8. ProMedix Inc. (Portland, OR) – A revolutionary, noninvasive wearable sensor for accelerating sepsis detection at the bedside – whether in hospital, or remote patient monitoring settings.
  9. Radious (Portland, OR) – A B2B marketplace for on-demand workspaces in residential neighborhoods.
  10. Wild Rye (Sun Valley, ID) – A women’s outdoor brand crafting beautiful and technical mountain apparel that fits, inspires confidence and welcomes more women into the outdoors.

In alphabetical order, the BVC Impact Stage semifinalists are:

  1. Canopii Inc. (Portland, OR) – A technology company building autonomous greenhouse farming systems to make local food production more viable.
  2. Ethicann Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Bethesda, MD) – A biotechnology company developing high-value, cannabinoid-based drug therapies using a development strategy of reformulating approved drugs into safer and equally efficacious drugs.
  3. Pacific Diabetes Technologies, Inc. (Tigard, OR) – Developers of SynerG™, a single through-the-skin device that is able to measure glucose and deliver insulin for people with diabetes.
  4. Photon Marine (Portland, OR) – Designing and developing an electric outboard motor system and intelligent fleet management software for commercial boat fleets.
  5. SolarX|Works (Bend, OR) – An applied solar company with patented cooling and control systems that meet the challenge of a sustainable cold chain and help improve post-harvest yield.
  6. Upcycle & Co. (San Diego, CA) – Makers of Upcycle Active Fertilizer, which not only grows plants, but regenerates, conditions, and improves the earth with every use.
  7. Veana Therapeutics, Inc. (Portland, OR) – A privately held clinical stage biotechnology company developing effective and safer treatments for cancer patients.
  8. VitalFlo Inc. (Portland, OR) – A predictive respiratory medicine company that monitors and forecasts expensive patient outcomes for respiratory disease.

Ticket Sales
Tickets to the 19th Annual Bend Venture Conference are on sale now and are available here.

Press Contact
Nicole Mcnew, Director of Marketing and Communications, EDCO
541.388.3236 | [email protected]

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EDCO Announces Early-Stage BVC Semifinalists presenting at September PubTalk

BEND, Ore. – September 13, 2022 – Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) announced the nine semifinalist companies advancing in the Early-Stage competition for the 19th Annual Bend Venture Conference (BVC) on Thursday, October 20 – Friday, October 21, 2022. This group of companies is one step closer to presenting at BVC.

The following Early-Stage semifinalists will pitch against each other at the September 22nd PubTalk: Road to BVC. This high-energy entrepreneurial event showcases the BVC Early-Stage semifinalists as they deliver fast-paced, three-minute pitches to a live and virtual crowd. The audience, along with an expert panel of judges, will vote to decide which companies advance to present at BVC, where finalists will compete for a minimum investment of $30,000 from Portland Seed Fund.

In alphabetical order, the BVC Early-Stage semifinalists that will compete at the September 22nd PubTalk are:

  1. (Portland, OR) – An OTT app for Latinos that solves the problem of the lack of Latino news, opinion and sports on Roku, IOS and Android.
  2. Glassbuilding (Bend, OR) – A document agnostic AI platform that democratizes negotiation of a commercial lease while promoting industry transparency, authenticity and trust.
  3. GoCrew Health (Portland, OR) – A white labeled, HIPAA compliant communications platform that allows healthcare providers and patients to communicate easily and effectively.
  4. Instinct Environmental Company (Hillsboro, OR) – Wireless sensor networks that detect wildfires and bring real-time environmental monitoring to the fingertips of forest and natural resource managers.
  5. Osheru (Bend, OR) – A device that simplifies upper eyelid surgery to make this vision and appearance enhancing procedure available to anyone.
  6. qChange (Bend, OR) – A real-time technology that objectively measures and grows soft skills in the flow of work.
  7. Range Revolution (Madras, OR) – The world’s first leather luggage company using only traceable and regenerative hides.
  8. TapeDeck (Tigard, OR) – A mobile app that connects people online through conversation.
  9. Tough Cutie (Austin, TX) – A women’s outdoor brand dedicated to helping women and people of color step into their authority in the outdoors.

PubTalk Agenda
4:00 pm to 5:00 pm Networking, drinks and appetizers
5:30 pm to 7:45 pm Early-Stage Company Pitches, Audience Vote, Winner Announcement

PubTalk Cost and Registration
In-Person: $26 EDCO and OEN Members (become a member here); $36 Non-Members
Virtual: $10 EDCO and OEN Members; $15 Non-Members
In-person attendance includes appetizers and a free beverage (choice of beer, wine or soda).

Bend Venture Conference (BVC)
Now in its 19th year, BVC, hosted by EDCO, is one of the largest angel conferences in the country. Over the past five years, more than $10 million has been invested in 45 companies as a result of the conference. This year’s conference will take place October 20-21, 2022, gathering entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders. Tickets to the 19th Annual Bend Venture Conference are on sale now.  Find out more at

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 that are already here to grow their operations. Learn more at


PubTalk Title Sponsors



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EDCO Welcomes New Team Members

BEND, Ore. (September 7, 2022) – Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) is pleased to announce the addition of three team members.  Kelly Michel, Nicole Mcnew, and Bre Wilkins bring a diverse set of economic development, marketing, and program management skills that will be critical to growing EDCO’s impact and mission.  EDCO was supported by their partners at Mid Oregon Personnel in recruiting Kelly Michel for the Director of Membership Development role, while Express Employment Professionals provided hiring and recruitment services for the Director of Marketing and Communications and Redmond Internship Coordinator positions.

Kelly Michel serves as the Director of Membership Development. In this role she will actively develop EDCO’s membership to expand the growing region’s network of business leaders, members, partners, and advisors.  Kelly brings over 12 years of non-profit experience to her role, most recently overseeing fundraising and community engagement at St. Charles Health System where she built the corporate sponsorship program, grew events, and launched patient and community advisory boards.  Kelly is a graduate of Leadership Bend class of 2018 and recently earned an MBA from Washington State University.

Nicole Mcnew joins the team as Director of Marketing and Communications and is focused on maintaining and growing EDCO’s voice across the region while assisting with marketing and public relations efforts consistent with EDCO’s mission of creating a vibrant and diversified regional economy in Central Oregon.  Prior to moving to Central Oregon Nicole was responsible for growing a community of entrepreneurs, healthcare businesses, and technology leaders to address market needs in the healthcare industry.  With a Bachelor of Communications from Adelphi University in New York and a Master of Business Administration from Regis University in Denver, Nicole brings experience in non-profit marketing, startup ecosystems, and industry innovation to give voice to the dynamic economic drivers in Central Oregon.

Bre Wilkins works with the Youth CareerConnect program as the EDCO Redmond Internship Coordinator. As a Central Oregon native, Bre knows firsthand the incredible opportunities young people have access to in our growing region. In this role she will help students find internships that align with their passions and develop the skills necessary for the variety of workforce industry needs in the Redmond area. Having recently returned to Central Oregon after spending time in New England, Bre brings with her a background in grassroots organizing and human services. Her experience working with young people both inside and outside of the classroom setting will serve her well in this new role.

“These positions add capacity across the organization,” stated Jon Stark, EDCO’s CEO. “As Central Oregon’s economy grows and diversifies, we must be diligent in our efforts to understand the needs of our local industries and support businesses by proactively building an environment for success and continued innovation.  We want to recognize our partners at Express Employment Professionals and Mid Oregon Personnel for their dedication to finding the best candidates for our needs.  The quantity of qualified applicants for each position was beyond current expectations and EDCO is excited to welcome Kelly, Nicole, and Bre to the team.”


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 Youth CareerConnect (YCC)
YCC provides internship opportunities for students from high school, college and alternative organizations, offering real-world work experience from local employers across the region. YCC’s mission is to achieve a work-ready labor force through the successful placement of young adults into internships. To register as a potential employer or intern, visit

About Express Employment Professionals, Specialized Recruiting Group

Express Employment Professionals is an international franchise organization that is locally operated by Chris Petty. Named by Forbes as one of America’s Best Professional Recruiting Firms in 2021 and 2022 and recognized as one of the nation’s Top 10 and fastest growing professional staffing firms, their team of professional recruiters is more than equipped to help local businesses discover and hire the highly skilled talent they need. Executive Recruiters in Bend, OR | Specialized Recruiting Group (

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.

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Member Spotlight: Altitude Functional Beverages

Bend, Ore., – July 21, 2022 – Altitude Functional Beverages was started in the fall of 2020 in Bend, OR to make functional ingredients accessible and delicious. We sat down with Thomas Angel, founder,  to learn more about how they started, their successes, and their future plans.

EDCO: Tell us more about Altitude Functional Beverages.

Thomas: It began when we noticed the majority of functional ingredients like hemp derived CBD, chaga, turmeric, l-theanine, and many other supplements were only available in powders and tinctures. So we set out to incorporate these ingredients into routine-based beverages and make them taste, well, not so healthy. We are a small, family-run business consisting of myself, my wife (Laura Melagarejo), my brother (Alex), my sister (Sarah), and my mom (Molly). We have an additional seven part-time employees that help with everything from market support, sales, and social media. Our products are currently available in about 500 stores in 13 states.

EDCO: Tell us about your product line. What is in the pipeline?

Thomas: We launched with our first product – The Everything Coffee Latte – in May of 2020 with the hope that it would resonate with customers. It did so much so that we expanded the line with a Matcha Green Tea and a Chai Black Tea latte in early 2022 to capture the demographic of customers that wanted all the CBD, mushrooms, and turmeric with something other than coffee. The addition of the matcha and chai completed our Sunrise Vibes line of superfood, oat milk lattes designed to give you everything you need to start your day right. 

Most recently we added a new line of sparkling white tea nootropic mocktails to introduce our evening line of functional beverages – Sunset Vibes. In addition to the organic white tea, we pack each can with 20mg of hemp CBD, cordyceps, GABA, L-Theanine, and 5-HTP. The GABA and L-theanine are amino acids designed to help calm and relax while the 5-HTP helps to release serotonin to create a euphoric feeling without being intoxicated. The Sunset Vibes line provides consumers with a better non-alcoholic option when seeking a social beverage that not only gives you the look and taste of a cocktail but also the feeling one is seeking from alcohol without the negative side-effects (dehydration, impairment, etc.). The line consists of three naturally sweetened flavors – Paloma (Ruby Grapefruit and Basil), Blue Hawaiian (Pineapple and Curacao), and the Mountain Mule (Spicy Ginger and Lime).

EDCO: Who is your ideal client (size, location, etc.)? How do they find you?  

Thomas: Our ideal client is anyone seeking a better beverage that not only provides benefits but also tastes great! Since we choose to have our beverages in a ready-to-drink can, we see a lot of consumers have active lifestyles and are looking for a beverage to take on the go. While we do our best to be at markets, concerts, races, and other events to promote our products, a lot of our customers find our products on the shelves of our incredible retail partners like Food4Less, Market of Choice, Newport Avenue Market, and many more!

EDCO: Why operate a business in Central Oregon? 

Thomas: We moved to Bend to start Altitude in the fall of 2020. Beside the 300 days of sunshine and incredible outdoor activities, it is a great startup incubator – especially for food and beverage. The business community has been incredibly generous in giving us ample advice, time, and resources. From individuals like Paul Evers at Riff to Gary Bracelin with Bend Outdoor Worx to the entire team at EDCO (special shout out to Heidi Hausner, Erin Reilly, Don Myll, Jon Stark, and Deanne Buck), we have had ample support in navigating the multiple obstacles to start a beverage company. While Central Oregon doesn’t have the plethora of resources like Portland, Seattle, or San Francisco, we are convinced the quality of the resources in Central Oregon are exactly what Altitude needs to succeed. 

EDCO: Do you have a time of challenge you’d like to share? If so, did you pivot? What was the outcome? What did you learn?

Thomas: There are too many challenges to count! That being said, our company was built off an initial pivot. We originally only wanted to produce cold brew coffee with hemp CBD in a can and nothing else. We did a quick production run for consumer testing in November 2020. The product tasted incredible, but we learned two major lessons:

1. Cold Chain products are incredibly expensive to distribute and scale.

2. Consumers were buying cold brew at their local coffee shop or making it at home.

When they were buying cold brew in a can it was almost always a latte with a little sweetness and/or flavor. As Colombians, we were so insistent on the “purity” of our coffee but at the same time we were drinking a daily mix of cold brew, oat milk, CBD, turmeric, functional mushrooms, and agave, which became our launch product. The major lesson here is to stay flexible and listen to what consumers are telling you. Every once in a while, consumers don’t know what they want. The other 99% of the time, they will tell exactly what they want. You just have to listen!

EDCO: What does your future look like? What is your year vision? What is your five-year vision? 

Thomas: We see a future where hemp CBD is treated like any other supplement, just as we do. It is unclear when the FDA is going to provide safe consumption guidance on hemp CBD but it is likely in the next few years. We have seen significant progress at a state and local level since the fall of 2020 in terms of clear guidance on hemp CBD in food and beverage – most notably AB 45 in California. We welcome more regulation to ensure safe products are being made and consumed. Once this happens, the market forecast will grow nearly 5x from $3B in 2026 to $14B with FDA guidance. At the same time, we welcome the opportunity in the next 1-5 years to build Altitude as one of the first brands to pair hemp CBD with a full stack of functional ingredients that seamlessly integrate into your existing beverage routine. 

EDCO: Any recent news stories you’d like to share with us?

Thomas: Our acceptance into the PIE Consumer accelerator class is a great story to share! We were connected to Mitch Daugherty, of Built Oregon, through Gary Bracelin, who we met while attending one of our first EDCO PubTalks in November 2021!! 

EDCO: How do you support EDCO and why? 

Thomas: We are very grateful for our partnership with EDCO. Our only regret is that we didn’t join sooner. Since EDCO provides us with so much support we try to return the favor by sharing the experiences we have had with any business owners and entrepreneurs we have the pleasure of meeting in Central Oregon and beyond! 


Member Spotlight: The NW Collective

Bend, Ore., July 18, 2022- The NW Collective was started in 2013 when Eric Parnell and his wife moved back to Bend after a three year hiatus in Albuquerque, NM. Utilizing the skills Eric learned while working in film and television in New Mexico to bring high end production opportunities to clients, he began looking for a Bend based content partner.

We sat down with Eric to learn more about how The NW Collective is impacting businesses both locally and nationally.

EDCO: Tell us about yourself/background and The NW Collective.

Eric: Shortly after starting the company I got more work than I could handle and made a couple hires, but we have stayed relatively small since then. We have maintained our base of three full-time employees and take pride in always bringing our “A team” to each project. Our work is probably 60 percent local projects, a fair amount in Portland, and a few national projects each year that take us to shoot in fun places like Boulder, New York, or most recently on an Organic Farm in southern Idaho. 

EDCO: Tell us about what services you provide?

Eric: We create content for many different channels from Amazon product videos, YouTube preroll ads, Broadcast TV Commercials, Social Media content, and Brand Films (“About Us” type videos). 

In all of those outputs we operate as a full service production company providing creative development (brand work, scripting, talent casting, locations, etc), Directing/Shooting the content, and a post house offering edits, music, titles, and animation services. 

EDCO: Who is your ideal client (size, location etc.)? How do they find you?  

Eric: Our ideal client right now would be outdoor/athletic or food and beverage. We’ve found that beautiful people, in beautiful places, doing interesting things is kind of our sweet spot. But we really get excited about taking a company’s values and communicating those in a way that will connect with customers and compel them to action. If we can do that, we’re open to all industries.

EDCO: Why operate a business in Central Oregon? 

Eric: Honestly, as a video production company we’ve probably been somewhat inhibited by being in a smaller market like this. But that is something we all are 100% okay with in exchange for getting to live in beautiful Bend, Oregon. We are excited by the recent growth, and it gives us confidence that this is somewhere we can stay for a long time.

EDCO: Do you have a story of success you’d like to share about your business?

Eric: Several years ago we were in talks with Microsoft about doing a series of training videos for their Azure AI arm. At the time, the idea was for us to go to Seattle and create this content. In our pitch we offered up the option of shooting here in Bend, and rather than flying our team to them, their team could come and visit a gorgeous new and interesting location that would have all the geological diversity we needed to shoot five unique spots in one week. They ended up loving the idea and we shot with their team for a week all over Central Oregon. This unique juxtaposition worked really well and they let us know that those videos were some of the most well received video content they’ve done. The training videos ended up becoming required viewing for 35,000 employees in the company. It went over so well, that when they needed to create a series of recruiting videos for this same department, they hired us again and flew one team member from India, China, UK, and New York to Bend to communicate messaging about their tech in a beautiful outdoor environment.

EDCO: What does your future look like and what are some of your goals?

Eric: I recently decided that the two markets we’re serving – local, small-business focused work, and enterprise level clients – are different enough that it would make sense for us to run these as two separate companies. By streamlining our product offerings for local small businesses we’ll be able to be much more efficient and have more affordable services. In turn, The NW Collective will stay focused on very customized, higher end projects. 

EDCO: What else would you like to share with us? What makes your business unique?

Eric: I think video crews can often take themselves too seriously. We like to keep it laid back and fun and we often hear how refreshing that is. I really get excited seeing our work help businesses grow, so if you think a great video marketing campaign could help your business, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Some people think they need to have a script or a full video idea before making contact, and I’d say don’t wait that long. We can help with those early stage pieces and would love to brainstorm with you even before you greenlight anything. 

EDCO: Any recent news stories you’d like us to share? 

Eric: Here’s a fun Western themed commercial for Visit Central Oregon that we did that aired on Cowboy TV.

This is an active wear laundry detergent commercial for a Boston-based company that we shot here in Oregon.

Here’s one of the Microsoft spots I referred to that we shot here in Central Oregon.

EDCOHow do you support EDCO and why? 

Eric: I became an EDCO member because I saw the value in being a part of this community. I believe a rising tide lifts all boats and I’ve learned that together we can do much more than we can alone. It’s been really fun connecting with other business owners at PubTalks and other EDCO events and I’m always ready to advise or contribute in the areas I can.