A housing shortage in Pendleton is keeping some businesses from being able to recruit workers, and officials say the shortage is hampering the town’s growth.
Many workers already now commute from Hermiston, Walla Walla and the Tri Cities and more are on the way if the projection for hundreds of more jobs comes true.
“Pendleton never overbuilt and didn’t do much on speculation,” says Gary Copperude of Copperude Building and Development.
The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indians is the largest employer in the county with 1,350 jobs. A $47 million expansion to the Wildhorse Resort and Casino will add another 100 jobs to the 500 created by the expansion that starts this spring. The Tribes’ Coyote Business Park is expecting several more major businesses to come on line, and its cornerstone business, Cayuse Technologies, is anticipating hiring 250 new employees in the next three years.
David Stich, Cayuse Technologies software development director, says the housing shortage makes recruiting difficult. The Tribes are developing 30 to 50 new housing units on the reservation aimed at medium- and low-income families.
Pendleton city manager Larry Lehman says the town is working with several developers on building 60 single-family dwellings and from 70 to 120 multi-dwelling units.
Keystone RV Company currently employs more than 400 workers and is expanding into the former site of Fleetwood Travel Trailers of Oregon on the west side of town. Keystone hired 100 new employees between July and September last year and plans to add another 80 to 100 by late spring this year. Approximately 46% of the current work force commutes because of the housing shortage. “More housing would sure help our development,” says Keystone CEO Bob Martin.
Pendleton estimates its vacancy rate is 2%. Most of what is available is considered sub-standard.
The city has $28 million for projects this year, another $8 million from the Pendleton Round-up and $4 million from ODOT for road improvements, says Mayor Phillip Houk. “As a result, Pendleton has been shielded from the economic downturn.”
Houk says the city is working on solving the housing shortage so that “people will be able to live here as well as work here.”