Pendleton Ready For Its Next Big Thing

Pendleton Newly Open For Business. Infrastructure, Arts and Culture Make Pendleton Ideal Place for Businesses.

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The small town of Pendleton, which rises out of the rolling wheat fields of eastern Oregon, has a history of producing big things. Blankets and clothing from Pendleton Woolen Mills are sold around the world. The Pendleton Round-Up draws over 50,000 visitors annually. When Hollywood costume designers need authentic cowboy hats, they call Pendleton-based Montana Peaks Hat Company.

“Pendleton was kind of a sleepy little town for a decade and a half and didn’t focus much on growth,” says economic development director Steve Chrisman. “Now we have a pro-growth city manager and city council, and we’re really geared up to grow the economy out here.

“This isn’t your grandpa’s ag community,” Chrisman continues. For one thing, the city has done a lot of develop its infrastructure in recent years. It has an affordable industrial district with shovel-ready land and customizable buildings. There’s a nearly drought-proof water system and excess wastewater capacity. A sizable portion of the area’s electricity comes from the largest per capita solar array of any city in Oregon. An enterprise zone makes it easy to apply for tax abatement. SeaPort Airlines offers four flights between Pendleton and Portland daily.

A high-speed fiber line runs through the community, which makes it perfect for one of the industries Pendleton hopes to attract: data centers, which have proliferated in parts of central Oregon. Also on the list of ideal businesses are those focused on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and advanced food processing. The community has one of three approved testing sites in Oregon and has invested heavily in a test range for UAVs. It also has a large cluster of diverse food processors including Continental Mills, Hill Meat Company, Barhyte Specialty Foods and Newly Weds Foods.

“Good quality of life helps businesses hang on to their workforce,” Chrisman says. “There’s a lot more activity here than you’ll find in any other ag town.” The downtown is home to several popular restaurants, shops and a new brewpub. A local bike shop is building mountain biking trails. Besides the annual Pendleton Roundup, the community hosts several special events, including the Whisky Music Fest.

Chrisman says any business that decides to set up shop in Pendleton will love it. “If you want the ability to live a quiet, simple life without traffic and long lines, and yet be connected to the rest of the world – that’s what we’re selling.” That and the fact that businesses have a penchant for growing as strong and fast as the local wheat crop.