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Mount Hood's unique economy

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Articles - June 2011
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
In addition to skiers, Timberline may add mountain bikers to its 2 million annual visitors.
Up at 6,000 feet on the mountain’s south side, Timberline Lodge sees almost 2 million visitors annually, including 350,000 skiers, 40,000 overnight guests and 1.6 million people who just stop by for a visit. To handle that load, R.L.K. and Company, which operates the publicly owned lodge through a special-use permit, employs 300 full-time equivalents with a payroll in excess of $10 million, according to R.L.K. president Jeff Kohnstamm.

“Some of those wages are for temporary jobs, but a lot of them are living wages and it all helps support the local economy,” he says.

The mountain’s recreational pull also helps keep the economy in Hood River sailing along as well. Though the initial spark that rejuvenated the city 25 years ago came primarily from the windsurfing winds of the Columbia River Gorge, Hood River is also the gateway to the mountain’s wild north side and a popular pass-through for skiers heading to the hill. What’s arisen in the 6,000-person town in part as a result of its recreational popularity is a solid and diverse local economy, says Kerry Cobb, president of the Hood River County Chamber of Commerce.

“I think the economy here is really balanced between recreation and agriculture and the services to support those,” she says. “It’s such an interesting combination.”

But Hood River is much more than a hospitality hub. The area’s scenic beauty — Mount Hood one way, Mount Adams the other and the Columbia River front and center — coupled with nearby outdoor recreation opportunities, have been part of what’s attracted and retained strong companies such as Full Sail Brewing, Insitu, Tofurky and DaKine. It’s also given rise to organizations like the Columbia River Gorge Technology Alliance, whose members focus as much on building a strong tech sector in the region as they do on hitting the trails or the river once they’ve punched out for the day.

“The people who move here to windsurf or ski also want to see the right combination of businesses and jobs so that the area can thrive,” Cobb says.



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