|Tillamook Cheese Factory's transition|
Though TCCA cut nearly 50 positions last year, it still employs close to 600 people, and its Tillamook factory draws more than 1 million visitors per year.
// Photo by Sierra Breshears
Though cutting positions was a tough decision, Joe Rocha, a third-generation dairy farmer and chairman of the TCCA board, says it made the most sense from a business perspective. The creamery did what it could to assist those employees who had been impacted, he says, and since then it’s made capital investments in its facilities and even added some positions back, albeit not in packaging. At press time, Tillamook had 13 job openings posted on its website, all of them in Oregon.
“We seem to be through that,” Rocha says of the disharmony the layoffs may have caused.
Of Tillamook’s current trajectory for growth by expanding into new markets, Rocha says the board and the farmers are supportive. With the layoffs now firmly in the rearview mirror, he says the major concerns are related more to the overall health of the economy and ensuring that the Tillamook brand takes its long-standing reputation with it wherever it may go. (During his most recent trade mission to Asia this fall, Gov. John Kitzhaber actually came across Tillamook cheese on the shelves of a Hong Kong grocery store.)
“I really think the farmers have the goal that their families will continue to live and work on the farms, and that their children will keep coming back and taking over the farms,” says Rocha, a married father of four boys, two of whom will likely take the reins of his Tillamook farm, R&R Dairy, when the time comes. “For us to do that, we have to continue to have a successful brand and company, so that really always remains the focus in everything that we do.”