Beyond cheese

BY SOPHIA BENNETT

Tillamook expands its tourism niche.

0614regionalBY SOPHIA BENNETT

Tillamook is a classic example of an Oregon community balancing traditional industry with modern economic-development strategies. The coastal town of 4,900 people, which already has a strong base in forestry and agriculture, is making big strides in promoting tourism. Now it looks like high tech is making inroads, bringing potential for jobs that pay enough to support the occasional splurge on a big weekend vacation.

Tillamook still has two employers in the wood-products industry: Stimson Lumber Company and Tillamook Lumber Company; both churn out millions of board feet of lumber a year. The largest single employer in the community, and the biggest contributor to the agricultural sector, is the Tillamook County Creamery Association, best known for their world-famous cheese. Besides the 100 families that are part of its farmer-owned dairy cooperative, the company employs around 450 people in Tillamook year-round and adds another 75 during the busy summer months.

The Tillamook Cheese Factory, which also has a popular visitor’s center, is a bridge between the worlds of agriculture and tourism, the fastest-growing segment of the town’s economy. And it’s an exciting time to be involved in tourism, according to Dan Biggs, executive director of the Economic Development Council of Tillamook County. In November of last year, Tillamook County passed a 10% room tax, which is expected to generate up to $1.5 million annually for a new tourism bureau.

“We will have the ability to market Tillamook more widely to a worldwide audience,” Biggs says, adding that the goal is to increase destination spending from $200 million to $400 million, the amount achieved by neighboring Lincoln and Clatsop counties.

Two projects that will benefit visitors as well as locals are moving along rapidly, says Marcus Hinz, principal executive of Kayak Tillamook and executive director of the Oregon Coast Visitors Association. A group is wrapping up work on maps of the Tillamook County Water Trail, which people can use to explore the county’s five estuary systems. “We have one of the largest water trail systems in the state,” Hinz says. “These maps are going to make a big difference for the water-sports industry.”


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