Do you feel it? Do you see it? Something is different! The Rogue Valley has a deafening low level buzz rising in the air. It’s an energy that wasn’t here before: our Valley is coming back alive again! Big Corporations have taken notice – from Trader Joes to REI who opened their doors in the same month at the same plaza. I watch in amazement at the influx of new businesses and additional locations of existing businesses multiply in our Valley. What do they know? What growth studies are they privy to? Listen closely, do you hear it? Are we the newest up and coming place to live?
We’ve spent the last decade or so in the worst recession/depression since the 1920s. Being in real estate, I’ve had a front row seat. I’ve seen the tragedy of families losing their businesses, homes, and their hope. I had the privilege of helping many of them navigate through what seemed like impossible times. But now, things are changing.
We saw the first signs of this in real estate when home prices began to increase and buyers flocking back to the market driven by still low prices and low interest rates. Then we saw new construction starting up. What were once abandoned subdivisions are now fresh neighborhoods buzzing with big trucks, contractors, and homes popping-up in what seems to be overnight. From Ashland to Eagle Point, Medford to Jacksonville there is movement and activity everywhere. When you’re driving around, try to count the number of new buildings, new wineries, new breweries, new restaurants, big name national retailers with storefronts in our valley and local businesses who are thriving like never before. Try driving 5 miles without seeing a logging truck on the road! We even have a couple of proper sports teams to call our own now. Somehow, when we weren’t looking, our Valley not only rose out of its depression but it’s still rising and thriving. And how?
Local Businesses Thriving!
Harry & David have come back from bankruptcy to post a $13 million profit for its fiscal year ending June 29th. Lithia Motors passed the $1 billion mark in revenue during a single quarter and is seeing a 31.3% jump in profit over the last year. Boise Cascade reopened their White City plant and Brammo Electric Motor Cycles just purchased the empty Wal-Mart building in Talent to house their new assembly line. Rogue Credit Union purchased Chetco Credit Union on the Oregon Coast and Umpqua Bank purchased Sterling Bank. Peoples Bank has just completed construction of a multi story building off of Barnett. Erickson Air Crane has purchased two other helicopter companies, Evergreen and Brazilian Aerial. Raising Sun Farms Inc was listed in Fortune Magazine as one of the 5,000 fastest growing US companies. Amy’s Kitchen is planning a $19 million expansion in White City which could push its workforce to 800 employees by the end of the year.
National Retailers & Restaurants
Walgreens has announced their third new store to be built in Central Point. Wal-Mart has opened its third new Super Center in the Valley. REI, Petco and the long awaited Trader Joe’s (thank you!), Auto Zone and Verizon Store, (including that Time Square worthy billboard by the Rogue Valley Mall) have all arrived and settled in our valley. Natural Grocers out of Colorado opened a store off of North Pacific Highway and the Texas Steakhouse Restaurant has opened off of Hwy 62. The valley also has a new Starbucks, Pita Pit, and our very first Chipotle Mexican Grill. So what do all these big time national retailers know that we don’t.
Sports & Entertainment
The historic Holly Theater tours begin this month that will raise capital to complete the interior remodel of this 1200 seat grand theater, Mt Ashland is expanding their ski park and the Medford Rogues seem to have come out of nowhere to give us a great baseball team with a winning season at the Harry & David Field. The Southern Oregon Spartans are playing ice hockey in front of sold-out crowds… yes, ice hockey in the Rogue Valley as well as Go Kart Hero where we can drive up to 50 mph!
Ashland is about to see the construction of a new boutique hotel called “The Vine” on Lithia Way. Lithia Springs Resort in Ashland is being renovated and Windmill Inn in Ashland newly purchased is also going through a renovation. The Red Lion in Medford was purchased and will follow suit with the facelift, as well as a new name “Inn at the Commons”.
Lithia’s new multi-story corporate offices off of Riverside are now complete but construction continues on “The Commons” parks that surround it. Southern Oregon’s University’s massive dormitory complex just opened in Ashland. The “One West Main” construction project is underway, four stories, retail shops on the ground floor and housing of corporate headquarters for three local companies. The Federal Building in downtown Medford was demolished only to make way for a Jackson County Health high-rise building and parking lot. A residential/commercial complex is breaking ground on Lithia Way and there is a buzzing around, of a proposed 25 unit housing complex to be built above the parking lot on Central and 10th across from the Medford Library.
Wineries & Beer
We’re all enjoying a wave of new wineries such as Dancin, Kriselle Cellars, 2 Hawk, and Red Lily. The newest kid on the block, Bella Fiore Winery, is something straight out of Napa and is the most ornate production facility of 20,000 square feet, 3 stories of beautiful Italian style construction and a ballroom. In addition there is a 19,000 square feet Chateau with slate roof and turrets that may be reserved for special occasions. It’s not just the wineries that are bringing a claim to fame to our valley, beer fans are delighted at the opening of Caldera’s new industrial cool brew house in Ashland, which was named in September’s Sunset Magazine as the new “it” place to hang out in Southern Oregon.
Forgive me for everything I left out, but I’m just one person and this is just a list of what has caught my eye.
So next time you’re stuck behind that slow moving logging truck, just smile and be grateful for this low level buzz.