OAKRIDGE Boom times are coming to Oakridge — boom being a relative term, mind you.
The once-thriving timber town 45 miles southeast of Eugene was left with barely a pulse when Pope and Talbot shut down its mill in 1990. Since then Oakridge has tried tourism, small business development and a government-financed $2 million bid to convert the old mill into an industrial park.
But the list of failed businesses is long, including the clothing store, the movie theater and the hardware store. Local boosters have branded Oakridge the “Center of Oregon Recreation” for its 30 nearby campgrounds and 500 miles of bike trails, but it’s no Bend.
Still, two developments, one retail and the other industrial, could bring prosperity. Particularly promising is the proposal from Atherton Properties LLC of Nevada to set up 16 businesses providing 545 jobs in the industrial park. Details are sparse, but the mood is upbeat.
“I think we’re on the upswing,” says Paige Gardner, the 28-year-old co-owner of Double Trouble Espresso, who was born and raised in Oakridge. “Finally,” she adds.
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