Everything Grows in Tillamook County

The new Headlands Coastal Lodge and Spa in Pacific City is part of a locally owned company of businesses that includes Pelican Brewing. The company employs 400, and is seeking additional staff.

Brand Story – Jobs are just as abundant as natural resources on the Oregon Coast.

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In a 2017 study, the United States Travel Association revealed those who begin careers in tourism eventually earn higher peak salaries than most industries in the U.S. Based off data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the study calculated the average peak salary to be $81,900, with 40% earning in excess of $100,000 (those with a high school degree or less earned an average career salary of $69,500).

Given these findings, the future of Tillamook County looks especially bright.

Tourism is growing in Tillamook County, due largely to Oregon’s continued influx in residents, successful marketing, and the launch of acclaimed restaurants and family-friendly activities. While the area has gladly welcomed the increased visitation, it’s also seen a large gap in qualified workers. “There are lots of ‘Help Wanted’ signs on our businesses,” said Nan Devlin, director of tourism for Visit Tillamook Coast.

Oregon Employment Department reported an average 1,072 job vacancies in leisure and hospitality throughout Northwest Oregon on any given day. By 2027, tourism is projected to add the most jobs to the region of any industry (1,680). “Opportunities are here for those who want to work in tourism,” says Devlin. “The skills learned in hospitality, such as customer service, launch successful careers in many industires.”

Doug Olson spent most of his career in tourism, notably 20 years as the owner of The Inn at Pacific City. Much of his success, he says, can be attributed to skills learned in retail and hospitality. “Everybody needs to work in tourism at least some point in their careers, especially if you’re going into private business,” says Olson, who now sits on the boards of Tillamook’s Economic Development Council, the Pacific City Nestucca Valley Chamber of Commerce, and the Public Utilities District. “When you see someone pull the money out of their wallet, you have a different view of how business works.”

Tillamook CreameryThe Tillamook County Creamery Association represents three thriving industries: dairy farming, food processing and tourism.

Beyond this foundational understanding, Olson says working in tourism provided a first-hand lesson on human nature. “When you’re in private business, you rely on the money of others. So you have to learn how interpersonal interactions work,” he says. “Human beings like to be appreciated, recognized, listened to and liked. If you can satisfy all those, then they’re happy. That’s what hospitality teaches you.

“It’s simple but it’s human nature. And if you understand human nature, you’ll be very successful in business.”

After gaining these skills, the door is open for many opportunities.

One option is self-employment. Tillamook County provides fertile ground for prospective entrepreneurs. Arlene Soto, director of Tillamook’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC), has worked with SBDCs throughout the region for more than 20 years and is especially excited about what the county has to offer. “There are untapped opportunities here and you’d never see them on the surface,” she says. Examples include available office space, expanded broadband capabilities, access to financing and capital, and opportunities for professional development.

One recently launched program is the Solo Business Builders, aimed at “encore entrepreneurs” (recent retirees seeking to launch a small business) or people hoping to create their own jobs. The program’s curriculum—adopted from similar courses offered in Portland—includes performing market research, developing a business plan and accessing capital. Another program, Recipe to Market, which is a cooperative effort between the community college, Oregon State University Extension, Visit Tillamook Coast and SBDC, guides those with a recipe or food-related product into commercialization.

Beyond those, Soto said the SBDC provides many solutions to obtain financing, all with free and confidential advising. “Small business is the backbone of strong healthy economies, so it’s our mission to strengthen and support the entrepreneurial culture,” says Soto. “And in Tillamook County, I see nothing but possibility and opportunity.”

Having seen the dangers of a small community’s reliance on one dominant industry—be it timber, fishing, or tourism—the county is committed to sustaining a multi-faceted economy.

The Schooner BlackboardThe fresh board at The Schooner Restaurant in Netarts showcases locally sourced products, supporting restaurant tourism industries as well as entrepreneurial producers.

As such, the need for labor doesn’t apply to just tourism. Construction added 4,900 jobs in 2017, with transportation, warehouse and utilities tacking on an additional 1,900 jobs (as reported by the Oregon Employment Department). As Devlin noted, Tillamook Creamery is almost constantly adding jobs, as is the county’s healthcare and education industries.

To satisfy these demands, Tillamook Bay Community College offers quarterly classes for passing construction licensing exams as well as a newly-created truck driving program to fill the dire shortage in qualified drivers (launching September 2019). Customized trainings are also available based off the unique needs of local employers across all industries.

In short, opportunities abound in Tillamook. Tourism can be the springboard into various avenues, be it self-employment or otherwise. “We’re a rural coastal county, but we have all these industries doing so well. And they are looking for more people,” says Devlin. “We have a diverse workforce and diverse opportunities—that’s the strength of Tillamook County.


Brand stories are paid content articles that allow Oregon Business advertisers to share news about their organizations and engage with readers on business and public policy issues.  The stories are produced in house by the Oregon Business marketing department. For more information, contact associate publisher Courtney Kutzman.