Author Archives: Heidi Hausner

Credit Associates: Committed to Supporting Our Community

Bend, Ore. – September 8, 2020:  Established in 2000, Credit Associates is a local debt collections agency that takes a unique consultative approach to recover past-due accounts. Through their proprietary processes, they’ve found that when people are treated with dignity and respect, outcomes are favorable for all. Their motto is “Protecting What You’ve Built” for both businesses and consumers.

We spoke with Wes Fischer, Credit Associates President, to learn more about their business and their inherent desire to give back to this community we call home, including a collaborative effort with Laird Superfood and Scissor Bird Sewing & Alterations, called Operation Inspire, a project to supply masks to St. Charles Health System.

EDCO: Tell us more about Credit Associates and what makes you unique. 

Wes: Through the process of proprietary accounting practices, Credit Associates is able to resolve debt conflict much faster for the creditor and with much less burden to the consumer. We take a unique and highly effective approach to the collections process. We pride ourselves on our emphatic personal approach to the collections process when consumer hardship is identified. In many instances, we serve as consultants to develop solutions that benefit all parties. Most important, we don’t get paid for effort, only for results.

EDCO: What type of businesses can you help?

Wes: We serve primarily medical, financial, commercial, and governmental entities. We strive to support all business sectors, regardless of size, in Central Oregon.

EDCO: What are the benefits of having a business in Central Oregon?

Wes: After many years of vacationing and, honestly, trying to spend as much time as possible in Central Oregon, I fell in love with this community and made the decision to move my young family here in 1992. Upon taking over the management of the only locally owned and operated agency at the time, I realized that in order to be a part of the community you must support the community. With this in mind, I started Credit Associates in April 2000. Our mission is to bring more equitable solutions to both businesses and consumers living in Central Oregon.

EDCO: Tell us about the various ways in which you support our community.

Wes: I believe that being local actually requires that one does more than just claim to support the community. Credit Associates has supported numerous initiatives, including sponsoring youth athletic programs as well as providing support and fundraising efforts for a variety of Central Oregon charities and organizations that benefit our unique community.

EDCO: How has COVID-19 impacted your business and how have you pivoted?

Wes: With the issues related to the pandemic, we have seen a large part of our community struggle with debt. In response, Credit Associates has provided consumers with much needed relief via payment deferral and reduction. While this would seem to affect overall recovery performance, we are seeing many consumers using the equity in their homes to resolve issues related to debt, thus, our assignors are not experiencing as much of a revenue loss related to their account listings as one might expect. We’re also seeing more digital communications and more web-based resolution of debt.

Additionally, being a longstanding community supporter, we know that giving back to the community we live and work in is essential to our collective survival. Together, we need to keep our revenue working within our local economy. We try to do our part by supporting local businesses every chance we get.

EDCO: How have you partnered with EDCO?

Wes: It was our relationship as an EDCO member that allowed us to amplify the call for assistance and support for our frontline medical providers through Operation Inspire, an initiative to provide masks to our local frontline workers at St. Charles Health System. This relationship helped provide thousands of needed PPE and nutritional supplements to those most at risk. Through EDCO’s assistance, connections, inspiration, and take action character, three local businesses came together to help those who help us.

For additional information on Credit Associates, visit their website.

EDCO Progress Update by Community

Central Oregon community

Bend, Ore., September 8, 2020 – A common theme heard by EDCO’s Area Directors is that they are busier than they’ve ever been. As a result of COVID-19, the demand to live and work in Central Oregon has never been greater. Learn more as each Director provides a summary of the economic happenings in their respective community.

Don Myll, Bend Area Director

The initial jolt from COVID affected our Bend traded sector companies across the board in a variety of forms. Today, the overall impact is mostly in the rearview mirror (unlike the services sectors including restaurants, travel, etc.). We’ve shifted from assistance with CARES Act funding in April to helping secure available local incentives in July & August. Over 60% of COVID job losses (except the service sector) were recovered by the end of July. For most manufacturing companies, bottlenecks in the supply chain have worked themselves out and manufacturing volumes are back to pre-COVID levels. Some industries, including outdoor products, have seen above year-over-year sales volume increases.

There’s a strong interest in commercial land and building demand for our existing companies to meet growth expectations. New commercial development in Juniper Ridge, in which infrastructure expansion is currently underway, is now an attractive alternative. The city is actively responding to development interests. Bend Municipal Airport has become a viable and cost-effective option for select companies. There are several Enterprise Zone projects in the works for existing Bend companies that are growing as well as relocating companies. Relocation projects have picked up significantly since the world began to adjust to COVID-19. This is likely due to Bend’s perennial attractiveness as well as quality of life concerns have hastened the interest in moving to Bend both by small companies representing a range of industries and individuals that work remotely.

 Jon Stark, Redmond Area Senior Director

Today, Redmond is in demand. The work at Redmond Economic Development (REDI) has not slowed down with the pandemic. In recent weeks, REDI has shown more land and buildings than ever before and six new projects have been added to the pipeline.

Currently, out of the 35 projects REDI has in the pipeline, 18 of those are considered “HOT.” This is atypical as usually only a handful at a time are very active. With all the demand for more industrial space from businesses, REDI is working with local and out-of-area developers to deliver 8-10 new buildings and hopefully a future industrial park.

What is driving this movement? There are three main driving factors:
1.) Money is cheap right now.
2.) Businesses have been in pain for two years because they can’t find property to meet their expansion needs or they simply have not had the time to look. The earlier months of COVID-19 gave companies the break they needed to solve some of the problems they’ve been feeling.
3.) People are no longer comfortable in big cities. The will to get to Central Oregon is so strong and lifestyle and livability are the top driving factors for the movement we are seeing.

To learn more about what is driving the Redmond economy, read more here.

Affordable living and childcare continue to be an increasing concern. We, together as a community, need to resolve this issue to meet our workforce demands.  Today, East Cascades Works is partnering with Better Together to support the expansion of childcare options for school-aged children in support of working parents and guardians. Learn more here. Additionally, Learn and Play, a new childcare run under Redmond Proficiency Academy just opened in August.

Caprielle Foote-Lewis, Sisters Area Director

Sisters Country Economic Development (SCED) has never been busier. In Q2 things were really quiet for a couple of months due to the pandemic. As we transitioned from late Q2 into Q3, business started to pick up. Growing Sisters businesses need more space and want to stay in Sisters. Businesses from outside the region, now more than ever, want to relocate. With its natural environment and small community feel, Sisters makes an attractive option. As a result, we’re seeing an influx of natural products and specialty food & beverage industries eyeing the Sisters community. We are not seeing as much movement in early stage companies as many are trying to find funding and are watching their capital.

One of SCED’s focuses has been to work with the community to increase inventory for lite industrial use. In addition to the Three Sisters Business Park and the Sun Ranch Business Park (zoned mixed-use light industrial/manufacturing/live work), where discussions are underway to create a makers district, a local developer purchased 17 acres on the north side of town with the intent to re-zone the property from public use to light industrial. If approved, there will be 15 new light industrial parcels in Sisters, in which the developer is already taking pre-purchase reservations.

There has been a noticeable culture shift in Sisters. The Sisters Country Chamber has done a great job getting tourisst to Sisters. Once people arrive, vacation, and experience the small-town feeling, they leave with a desire to stay. Today, technology advances are making it possible to stay, live and work here. This is a top driver in our current growth. Since the pandemic, the move to this lifestyle has accelerated individuals’ and businesses’ plans to move. They no longer have to be in big cities. If you value a high quality of life, you can do it in Sisters.

Kelsey Lucas, Prineville/Crook County Area Director

In response to the pandemic, The Crook County COVID Relief Task Force quickly formed and funded a grant program in the amount of $278,000 to help Crook County businesses. The task force is comprised of the Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce, Crook County, the City of Prineville, the Prineville Downtown Association, and Facebook’s Data Center in Prineville. To date, nearly $263,000 has been distributed. Industries impacted and awarded funds included construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, real estate and leasing services, professional and technical services, business administration services, educational services, health care, arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodations and food services, and event sectors.

Prineville is home to both new and redeveloped speculative building developments in Baldwin Industrial Park and at the former Woodgrain Mill site. These spaces are available for lease and are intended to continue bringing new family wage jobs and capital investment to Crook County. Spec building space is available in the Baldwin Industrial Cessna Drive buildings (10,000 sq. ft. each) and in the Tom McCall industrial park providing custom building space based on need. There’s a large volume of interest in leasing spec industrial space and developing land reserved for spec development. There are multiple businesses interested in larger-scale manufacturing developments on Millican and Hwy 126. We are seeing an influx of aviation and aerospace leads. Many companies are looking at relocation or expansion at the Prineville Airport due to the new industrial space opened post-helibase completion and developments in Tom McCall industrial park adjacent to the airport.

The housing market is booming with low rates. We see people moving here to get out of the city and/or to be near family.

CTE Academy is a State accredited online academy that is tuition-free in 22 states. Oregon’s branch is based in Prineville and could be a good resource as online schooling is becoming more the “norm.”

Facebook continues to spread its generosity to help promote economic growth, education and inspiration in a community that they, too, call home. Here is a list of some of the support they’ve provided…

Facebook COVID relief support:

  • $450,000 to the Crook County School District Foundation to support remote learning for students. This includes expanding the school bus wifi program to every bus and a 3-year service and privacy software subscription, laptops for students to use at home, and robotics kits and lessons for students to use at home.
  • $200,000 to the Prineville/Crook County COVID-19 small business relief fund and Central Oregon SOS fund for small businesses in need. These grants include businesses with sole proprietors.
  • An additional $175,000 in cash and ad credits to small businesses between 2-35 employees.
  • $50,000 to East Cascade Works for urgent COVID-19 healthcare worker training.
  • $50,000 to the Crook County Foundation and Family Access Network to help with additional community relief and family needs.

Facebook Educational Support:

  • $50,000 for robotics education programs for all Crook County schools
  • $100,000 for career and technical modules for high school students
  • Hosted a digital online safety seminar for parents, teachers and students.

Facebook Community:

  • $210,000 provided to community non-profits in 2020.
    *** 2021 grants are opening Sep 14th for all Crook County non-profits. Check their Facebook page to apply ***

Facebook Diversity and inclusion:

  • A diversity and technology sponsor of a Central Oregon Young Professional summit in 2019, focusing on resiliency and entrepreneurship.
  • Sponsoring a Black author program at all Crook County schools, with a guest speaker in the works for the 2020-21 school year.
  • Supporting minority small businesses through KIVA small business mentorship.
  • Providing $40 million in Black-owned small business grants (nationwide)

Patricia Lucas, Interim Sunriver/La Pine Area Director

La Pine is currently experiencing a housing boom.  What is driving this boom? Location, cost and demand. The cost is significantly less than the more urban areas of Deschutes County. For those residents that commute, the driving time requirement is worth the cost savings.  Further, when the developers conducted their market analysis, they must have seen that La Pine could support the number of units that they are proposing to develop. Here are some of new housing developments:

  • Pine Landing – a ten lot single-family subdivision east of Hwy 97
  • The Reserves – 191 single-family residential lots, and two commercial lots with parks and open space located immediately east of Huntington Road and south of Crescent Creek subdivision
  • Evans Estates – 61 lot single family subdivision located immediately east of Huntington Meadows subdivision east of Hwy 97
  • Habitat for Humanity is continuing to build approved 19 lot townhome subdivision with common area located along Little Deschutes Lane
  • Star Storage La Pine LLC – 36 unit multifamily development; 25,329 self-storage facility with office, apartment and garage
  • Crescent Creek Subdivision No. 4 – 51 lot single-family housing

The Renaissance Companies Migrates To Central Oregon, Creating New Jobs and Housing

Bend, Ore. – September 2, 2020: Headquartered in Chicago, The Renaissance Companies is a woman, family-owned, award-winning, national development company specializing in multi-family properties, fostering the creation of sustainable neighborhoods. With over 30 years of residential and commercial experience, The Renaissance Companies has developed more than $250,000,000 in luxury and affordable communities across the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. These communities include decaying urban neighborhoods where the developments have accelerated new beginnings.

We talked with Jeanmarie Kapp, Chief Operating Officer, to learn more about The Renaissance Companies and Hunter Renaissance Development LLC, their new Central Oregon venture.

EDCO: Tell us more about The Renaissance Companies including your mission and footprint?

Jeanmarie: Every one of our properties is different from its neighbor. Our prototype includes opportunity zone projects and additional locations that are having difficulty addressing their workforce housing needs. Each project we take on is a catalyst for growth – in design/style, in livability and in economics. With 80 employees and locations in three states (Illinois, North Dakota and Oregon), we specialize in senior and affordable housing using our vertically integrated management and development companies to bring projects from our initial vision to stabilized occupancy. By adding commercial and industrial spaces to our portfolio, our expanded capacity allows us to make larger and long-lasting impacts. Our current focus is twofold: workforce housing in smaller cities and luxury for-sale homes.

We’ve crafted a powerful development team that has enabled us to design and build townhome rentals at an under-market cost. We work closely with architects and contractors to design a product that efficiently uses our dollars and results in a high-level rental product. Our focus is people earning roughly 80-120% of the median income and it is our intent to stay under market in our rents and still deliver a product that is better than anything else in the area.

Every community is in need of quality upscale and affordable housing—along with the job creation of industrial and commercial zones—and we are actively creating developments in these sectors. The Opportunity Zones are a perfect match of course, as the legislation is intended to foster economic vitality in designated census tracts. The nature of this legislation’s minimum ten-year hold coincides with our intent to continue to provide workforce housing, as we will control the developments and keep the rents under market. Our approach is that investors in our Opportunity Zone deals can truly make a difference; their money brings satisfactory returns while at the same time having a significant social impact.

EDCO: What brought you to Central Oregon? 

Jeanmarie: Seeking additional growth opportunities and communities in need, we began moving outside of Illinois in 2010 with historic preservation projects in the Quad Cities. We created independent living senior communities in two former 1890’s schools. We then moved to western North Dakota at the height of the oil boom, creating essential worker apartment units along with office and retail space. From here, we discovered that Central Oregon was in desperate need for workforce housing. A move further West was a natural progression. This is when we, The Renaissance Companies, joined forces with Hunter Investments LLC to create Hunter Renaissance Development LLC and HRCapital with a focus on growing neighborhoods in Central Oregon.

EDCO: How many employees are in Central Oregon?

Jeanmarie: Central Oregon has been experiencing and continues to see significant and sustained growth, driving the need for all levels of housing. Currently, we have 1.5 employees and an independent contractor on board. We project at least three to four more employee positions available over the next two years along with an expanding brokerage (independent contractor) operation. In addition, the projects combined have and will create upwards of 250 contracting jobs.

EDCO: Tell us about your Central Oregon Projects?

Jeanmarie: Our projects in Central Oregon are located in Sisters and Redmond.

The 27 Elm is our first Redmond townhome community, created to respond to middle-income earners looking for attractive, quality homes that feature high-end design and finishes. Located in northwest Redmond, this development consists of 58 rental units that are all currently occupied.

The 21 Canal is our second project in Redmond, and it is a part of the Opportunity Zone. It will be a nine-acre, 130-unit townhome and apartment campus in south Redmond that will feature a fenced dog park, shade pavilion, fire pit, pickleball courts, a bike path, and more. This project is expected to break ground by year-end with anticipated occupancy starting next fall.

Grand Peaks at Sisters is a 38 homesite luxury community with private parks—including pickleball courts—featuring mountain and rustic contemporary designs unlike anything in the area. Grand Peaks has seven floor plans beginning at $595,000, with stunning kitchen, bath, and great room spaces. One of our models won two awards in the 2020 COBA Tour of Homes: Best Feature (Butler Pantry) and Best Interior Finish. The development offers spectacular views of the Sisters and Cascades and is setting a new standard in Sisters.

EDCO: What is your niche? 

Jeanmarie: Our niche is determining what discerning buyers and renters want and delivering more than they expect. At the same time, we set a high bar for our competition. For example, we know that many people find Sisters a desirable location and a growing number of them are seeking permanent homes. Our development offers more of what other developers charge extra for. There’s generally no need for upgrades in our homes, with the exception of outdoor living packages.

Jeanmarie: What contractors to you work with here in Central Oregon?

We work with Pacific Construction & Development as our exclusive builder partner. TJ Toney and Scott Wolf have assembled an exceptional team whose culture matches ours. They are in business to establish and serve client relationships. They want to grow with us and help us create the best in single- and multi-family developments.

EDCO: What are your future expansion plans in Central Oregon? 

Jeanmarie: We’re conducting an equity raise for our Opportunity Zone project, The 21 Canal in Redmond. We are at 50% on a $10 million raise and are open to investor inquiries at HR Capital. We also have a 28-acre industrial parcel in a McMinnville Opportunity Zone where new space is in high demand. We’ve created build-to-suit parcels with potential building designs and are open to larger users.

EDCO: How do you support the community? 

Jeanmarie: Currently, we are seeking a veteran or first responder individual or family who’s in need of an adaptive or accessible home. We are donating a lot at Grand Peaks in Sisters for this purpose and are working with our network to fundraise for the home build. We’re a proud annual sponsor of the Sisters Folk Festival. We support our local businesses and network with them to drive traffic.

EDCO: How has COVID 19 affected your business? How have you responded?

Jeanmarie: We shut down open houses for a couple of months. We proactively began them again earlier than other developments. We’ve seen a contraction in the number of people looking. The majority of people out now are actual buyers who have shorter timelines. We see people very motivated to leave dense urban areas and many are accelerating their relocation plans, bringing their move to Central Oregon forward months, if not years.

We’ve created an in-house task force of seven senior managers who’ve worked since the first week of March 2020 on assessing our issues and creating protocols and procedures for our properties, residents and our employees. We’ve managed to keep our teams and our residents safe, with only two residents of nearly 500 diagnosed as positive in a period of nearly five months. Our return-to-work protocols are strict and specific and have aided our team members to protect themselves as well as our residents and to know exactly what they need to do to get back to work.

EDCO: How do you think this has changed you for the future/forever vs just now? What have you learned?

Jeanmarie: We’ve confirmed the strength and resilience of our Renaissance team, and its ability to adapt, improvise and overcome any challenge while maintaining our exceptionally high standards. I’ve no doubt that we will continue this way, as we have for many years, keeping our residents’ needs aligned with our team’s needs and furthering our reputation for the best in affordable and market-rate housing.

EDCO: Why does The Renaissance Companies choose to support EDCO?

Jeanmarie: We have been members since 2017. We’ve found the business resources to be exceptional and the EDCO team to be very responsive to area newcomers. We’ve worked directly with Jon Stark, REDI Sr. Area Director and Caprielle Foote-Lewis, EDCO Sisters Area Director on multiple occasions, both of whom have provided excellent service. They’ve educated us on the Sisters and Redmond markets, offered networking assistance and have been available for questions as needed.

Contact information for Hunter Renaissance Development, LLC.:
Jeanmarie Kapp
jmkapp@renaissancecos.us
773-490-3805
Grand Peaks at Sisters – Open house: Sat/Sun 12-4pm and Tues/Thurs noon-3pm
The 27 Elm
The 21 Canal

ProCFO: Helping Businesses Maximize Profits

Bend, Ore. – September 2, 2020: Established in Central Oregon in 2007, ProCFO provides services including Chief Financial Officer outsourcing, business accounting and taxes, and business evaluation. We sat down with James Jans, ProCFO President, to learn more about the business and the various ways they can help businesses local and beyond.

EDCO: Tell us more about ProCFO. How did you get your start?

James: I started ProCFO in 2007 when I moved to Bend. My vision for the business model came after completing a case study during my Executive MBA Program at the University of Washington in 2002. I learned that BP Amoco was outsourcing its financial operations to access a larger team of financial experts to create greater shareholder value. I felt that smaller companies would have an even greater benefit from outsourcing their accounting, so I decided to start ProCFO for that purpose. Since day one, the mission of ProCFO is to provide financial outsourcing including CFO consulting, accounting, payroll, and taxes to help companies and shareholders create and retain wealth.

EDCO: Tell us more about the ProCFO team and the clientele you serve.

James: The ProCFO team consists of CPA’s, enrolled agents, accountants, and support staff that support for-profit and nonprofit businesses. Our ideal clients are those businesses that need outside financial professionals to help with financial advice and professional accounting. We have clients in real estate, hospitality, manufacturing, service, construction, and technology.

EDCO: Why did you choose to start your business in Central Oregon? 

James: Central Oregon is a great place to raise a family and enjoy the outdoor lifestyle. Current technological resources allow us to securely and efficiently serve businesses in Central Oregon and throughout the country. This allows our team to live in a healthy, high quality and supportive community – a lifestyle that allows for a great deal of creativity.

EDCO: How has COVID-19 impacted your business and how have you pivoted?

James: COVID-19 has presented many beneficial tax-related incentives to protect American businesses. These programs are complex and ever-changing. We are staying on top of it to help our clients reap the maximum benefit from these programs.

EDCO: How and why do you support EDCO?

James: ProCFO handles financial and accounting services for EDCO. Additionally, we are proud to be a member and participate in events.

 

To learn more about ProCFO’s wide variety of services, visit their website.

Meet Darcy Diamond – The Force Behind Production Squad’s Global Success

Bend, Ore. – June 4, 2020:  Headquartered in Bend, OR., Production Squad is a full-service production company that produces photo & video content for photographers, agencies, and clients globally. Clients include Walmart, Verizon, Athleta, Apple, Charles Schwab, Fitbit, Amazon, Sprite to name a few. Darcy Diamond, Owner/Executive Producer, is the force behind this 25-year-old successful production company.

We sat down with the gracious Darcy Diamond for a brief Q&A to learn more about her, Production Squad, best practices adopted pre and post COVID 19, and the contributions she’s making to our Central Oregon economy, including opportunities she’s creating for our locals.

EDCO: Tell us more about Production Squad and how you got your start?

Darcy: Production Squad had been in business for 25 years. We are headquartered here in Bend, with offices in Portland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Lake Tahoe. We like to think of ourselves as a team of experienced, organized, innovative problem solvers, devoted to making everyone’s lives a little easier and each production better than the last. We operate by these 16 principles:

    1. Always be available and present
    2. Focusing on our optimism / can-do attitudes / sincerity
    3. Recognize everyone’s value
    4. Dedication to sustainability
    5. Demanding excellence from ourselves & all team members (the squad)
    6. Every problem has a solution
    7. Take intelligent risks
    8. Provide the best customer service
    9. Support on all levels
    10. Work hard and have fun
    11. Freeing people up from distractions, making everyone’s lives a little easier
    12. Exceed expectations
    13. Never forget your skateboard
    14. What you need, we deliver
    15. Prioritize free parking, charcuterie, & $5 Fridays
    16. Recognize everyone’s value / our crews work WITH us, not FOR us

Prior to my transition from freelance to full production company 25 years ago, I spent 8 years combined as an Art Buyer for an amazing ad agency in Los Angeles called TBWA Chiat/Day and then in San Francisco for Publicis Hal Riney. During this time, watching producers in their roll, I knew I wanted a more hands-on approach to problem-solving and being in the details of making the magic happen. When I decided to make the shift to production I reached out to all the amazing connections I had made, including the various photographers I had worked with, during my years as an Art Buyer. All of them were so supportive of this transition and hired me immediately to start producing. I was very lucky that my first production job was with Doug Menuez on a Saturn car shoot.

EDCO: What does it take to land the jobs you do?

Darcy: We are so fortunate to work with some of the most talented photographers, creatives, and clients in this business. Our entire business is built on reputation. The talent we work with trust us with their productions and call on us to share their creative. We collaborate on how to make their vision come true and do a lot of research to provide an estimate on their project. Often we are triple bidding against other teams. If we are awarded the job, we put together the crew and handle all the logistics with this team from location scouting, casting, wardrobe, props, hair & makeup, travel, talent, catering, etc.

EDCO: Why Central Oregon? How has the move here been for your business?

Darcy: I received a call from a photographer 12 years ago because he knew I was a climber.  He was bidding on a pharmaceutical job that involved rock climbing and the client specifically requested a non-descript location that could be anywhere in the world. Living in California, I knew that places like Joshua Tree and Yosemite would be too recognizable. I had been to Smith Rock on a camping and climbing trip a few years prior and pitched the idea based on real photos of me climbing there. The client loved the idea! We came out to Bend and had the most amazing shoot. I fell in LOVE with this place, the town, and the people. I went back to California and convinced the family that moving to Bend would be magical. We put the house on the market and made the move within a years time.

Initially, I kept our move to Bend under wraps for fear of ‘out of site, out of mind’ for the business. Slowly, I started telling people about it and they were so receptive and trusting and excited for us that it quickly became part of the conversation.

EDCO: Tell us about your plans to expand your company and why?

Darcy: We travel so much all around the world for our jobs and we live in such a beautiful place. I’ve always hoped to bring more production to Bend and Central Oregon. With the COVID quarantine, we decided to put all of our resources into adding and building a location division, Bend Location, and a talent division, Talent Squad, to our company. We are currently in the midst of building these custom sites, scouting, and getting them to a place to start sharing. In the meantime, you can learn more here.

EDCO: Tell us about any other initiatives you’re involved in?

Darcy: We’ve been certified by  Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). We are partnered with No2Plastics to reduce single-use plastic for the planet. Part of this is thru use of Hyrdroflask products on our production. Every year we align with a charitable cause that we are passionate about and pledge 1%. This year it is All Hands and Hearts. Previously, we aligned with Everytown USA and Operation Underground Railroad. Additionally, we are working towards becoming a B Corporation.

EDCO: How has COVID 19 affected Production Squad? How have you pivoted? What has changed and what has stayed the same? 

Darcy: We’ve been at a complete pause since the travel ban. All our jobs canceled until just a  week ago. A lot of our clients are starting to gear up to start production and are asking questions on how we can move forward.

The crews will stay the same – we will try to pod them together so that we can keep teams together in safe ways similar to how we have quarantined. There are a lot of changes that we are incorporating into our production in terms of sanitization, who travels to shoots and keeping the crew size to a bare minimum. Our teams have all become OSHA certified and we have established a COVID protocol to keep everyone safe. Many clients and agencies will not travel. In response, we’ll set up remote viewing with the help of Zoom to accomplish their vision and have all their thoughts and voices be a part of our live productions. Our best practice COVID plan is outlined here

EDCO: Have you worked on any COVID 19 related initiatives to support neighbors and community?

Darcy: I have actively remained deeply involved in supporting local businesses. We’ve been ordering most of our food at open restaurants and each week I have chosen a different local shop to support. I’m wildly impressed with how these businesses have pivoted to stay open and continue to share the beautiful offerings they do in this community. I recently learned about SOS Bend and am excited to participate deeper in that. With the expansion of Production Squad in Bend, we are excited to hire locally and support more of the businesses and individuals here by bringing more productions to our amazing town.

EDCO: How do you think this has changed you for the future / forever vs just now? What have you learned?

Darcy: I’ve learned so much. Not only from the facts of the virus and what is required of all of us to stay healthy and keep our amazing first responders and hospitals safe and operational but I’ve also learned how to have patience on a level I have never known. My main goal this entire time has been to keep my 3 full-time employees employed and with the help of the PPP, we have been successful in doing so. I hear ’the new normal’ being used over and over and just keep thinking that every day there’s so many new details, news, and continual evolving information that for me I keep thinking about staying present and treading water optimistically. This has been a very challenging time on so many levels for so many people: our first responders, business owners, our schools, teachers, our kids, all the parents trying to homeschool, all the teachers trying to teach on a new platform and home school their own children etc. It’s kind of mind-blowing how everyone has been continually adapting to these changes. I have been mindfully trying to remain present, grateful, and attempt to add whatever optimism I can into our collective energy as a whole.

EDCO: How do you support EDCO (membership) and why?

Darcy: I was lucky enough to be introduced to EDCO when we needed a parking lot for production and it happened to be right in front of their offices, so we became a member last year. My job involves so much travel, that I haven’t been able to immerse myself to the level I would like to and meet more outstanding community members. With the sights on bringing more production to Bend, I’m hoping to participate on new and exciting levels and meet many more people.

Learn more about Darcy in these two podcasts with Tony Robbins and Charlie Thiel

Fuel Safe Systems: Utilizing Central Oregon’s Ecosystem to Advance

Bend, Ore., June 4, 2020 – EDCO’s mission is to help diversify the economy and create living-wage jobs. This is done by helping the traded sector – those companies that export their goods and services outside the region and bring the riches home through new job creation and new capital investment – move, start and grow in Central Oregon. As pointed out by Jon Stark, Redmond Economic Development, Inc. (REDI) Senior Director, the assistance provided by EDCO spans further than just “move, start, grow”.

It often requires multiple resources and utilizing Central Oregon’s broad business ecosystem, including EDCO’s vast member and partner networks. It’s about working together to help sustain our local businesses. One example of this at work is a two-year project that came to fruition earlier this year when Fuel Safe Systems‘ longstanding management team acquired the company’s assets.

We sat down with Bill Hare, Fuel Safe Systems’ President, to learn more about the transaction and who in the community was instrumental in facilitating this deal.

EDCO: How and when did the opportunity to acquire Fuel Safe Systems occur? 

Bill: The opportunity to assume ownership of Fuel Safe Systems was something I never expected. When the previous owner, Peter Regna, approached me with the offer to purchase the business in 2018, I was thrilled with the idea of owning the organization I’ve led for nearly 14 years. At the same time, I had no idea where or how to begin the process; enter Jon Stark with REDI.

EDCO: How did Jon Stark / REDI help you?

Bill: Jon sat down with me and helped me create a plan to “eat the elephant” one piece at a time. He connected me with a team of experts across the business community that helped me and my partners, Jay Morrison and Ronda Duran, achieve our goal of purchasing Fuel Safe and the real estate it occupies.

EDCO: Who did Jon Stark connect you to?

Bill:  Jon connected me to many people and resources. Brian Vierra, EDCO’s Venture Catalyst, assisted with business valuation and investment advice. He also referred me to a valuation expert through EDCO’s Stable of Experts. Brian Fratzke with Fratzke Commercial guided us through the purchase of the real estate component. Tom Schnell and Business Oregon supported our efforts via a commercial loan guarantee. Taylor Thompson and the team at Columbia Bank steered us through the intricacies of the SBA loan process. Alison Huycke at Francis, Hansen & Martin LLP supported us from a legal perspective. Brian Newton of Jones and Roth ensured we made sound financial decisions along the way.

I’m sure I’m forgetting a number of people who were also instrumental in this process, I’ll apologize in advance.  I’d like to note, beyond their respective expertise, the single most important thing all of these individuals provided was encouragement and optimism during the two-plus years it took to close this deal.

EDCO: Any final thoughts?

Bill: Thank you to all of the individuals and organizations that helped make this happen, we truly could not have done it with you!

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In business, merger and acquisition activity are the norm, especially for sizable companies like Fuel Safe Systems. It’s less than normal that an employee is given the opportunity to be the acquirer. Too often acquisitions occur by large corporations, potentially moving them out of rural communities to more metropolitan areas. However, in this instance the local buyout results in both future company investment and revenue staying right here in Central Oregon, further cementing the company’s roots in the Redmond community.

Josie’s Best Gluten Free: Baking Through the Storm

Bend, Ore., June 4, 2020 – We often are told to look for the opportunities, which even exist during a downturn. This holds true for Sisters startup company Josie’s Best Gluten Free Mixes whose sales were positively impacted by COVID-19.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the company has seen a huge increase in their sales on both Amazon and through their website. CEO/Founder, Josette Johnson, attributes this to more people shopping online and more people with extra time on their hands to bake. This, combined with the 32 million people in the U.S. with a food allergy, make Josie’s Best’s products the perfect recipe for “allergen-free” bakers.

Additionally, during this time Josie’s Best started to market themselves through brand awareness campaigns. This increase in online activity resulted in a larger audience, which translated into increased sales for the company. They launched customs boxes and packages through Amazon which was a huge lift for the startup but came at the perfect time.

“We obviously didn’t project this and we spent a few weeks scrambling to catch up, but we are so grateful,” said Johnson. “We ran out of almost all our supplies…everything from bags to tape to space in our warehouse. But we’re getting caught up now and are still seeing sales continue.”

The pandemic gave the company an opportunity to secure coveted grocery store shelving space in larger chains when some of the bigger brands were sold out of products and couldn’t refill them due to overwhelmed distribution channels. These stores turned to Josie’s Best to help fill in the gaps.

“We are so happy that we have been able to help keep shelves full during a time that has been so taxing for grocery stores,” said Johnson.

With a full plate of filling orders, Josie’s Best did not forget the local community. They donated all of the sample bags they had reserved for Expo West (the U.S.’s premier natural food products trade show which was canceled due to COVID-19) to local food banks. They also started a weekly local no contact “porch delivery” service which was both successful for their business and helped those at-risk from traveling.

“We are just so grateful that we had the sales channels set up that allowed us to get products to so many people and businesses that have needed it during this time,” said Josie. “I hope that we’ve helped people not only get the food they need safely but also spread some joy during quarantine.”