Spreading Prosperity Across Douglas County

Brand Story-Roseburg-based manufacturer works with Oregon Community Foundation to fund help in times of need.

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Roseburg-based North River Boats is one of the nation’s foremost aluminum boat manufacturers, supplying the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, and commercial and recreational customers with high-quality, heavy-gauge vessels.

It is also one of Douglas County’s largest private employers, with 160 employees and 124,000 square feet of manufacturing space. Recognizing that committed workers are central to the company’s success, CEO Brent Hutchings—who has owned the company since 2012—introduced an employee stock ownership plan in 2016, giving each team member a stake in the business as well as an exceptional benefits plan.

Now, the company has taken employee involvement a step further by launching the North River Community Fund of Oregon Community Foundation (OCF). 

“Our company was doing so well, we wanted to come up with a fund to help the local community,” explains Logan Ledbetter, Recreational Fabrication Lead, North River Boats.

North River Boats employees Logan Ledbetter (left) and Shorty Titus (right) are among a group of employees involved in grantmaking from the North River Community Fund of Oregon Community Foundation.

Electrical Designer Shorty Titus emphasizes that the company already had a strong philanthropic culture: “When an employee had something unforeseen happen, we’d pass the hat and ask for donations. We always got an incredible response, but Logan and I got to thinking there had to be a better way to do it.” 

Their initial solution was to create the employee-led North River United Committee, which can direct financial aid to workers within two hours.

At the same time, unbeknownst to Titus and the team, Hutchings had come up with the idea of a community fund with OCF. They decided that their North River United Committee could also serve as the committee for the OCF fund.

“My wife Chrys and I are committed to sharing the company’s prosperity with the people and community who make it happen. We had heard good things about Oregon Community Foundation and wanted to use it as a vehicle to take care of the people of North River as well as the greater Roseburg community,” Hutchings recalls.

OCF’s expertise and flexibility played an essential role in charting this new course. 

“When we started, we didn’t know anything,” Titus admits. “They basically took us by the hand and helped us figure out how to get this process going.”

Like North River United, which funds North River employees who experience sudden difficulties like fire or illness, the North River Community Fund is completely employee-driven. Any employee can bring a grant recommendation to the committee for a vote. 

“With 160 employees, not everybody’s going to agree on everything,” Ledbetter acknowledges. “But it assures all the workers that their opinion does matter.”

“They want to do something to help, and the Community Fund gives them a way to do it,” Titus adds. “Douglas County was a timber industry area, and it’s become pretty depressed. Hopefully, we can be a small part of making it better.”

“We’d like to start as local as we can. And then, hopefully, we will expand and be able to help both locally and regionally,” Ledbetter concludes. “There’s not a better feeling at the end of the day than being able to help someone.”

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.