News today, history tomorrow

Coming soon to a Hood near you, the sound of backhoes and hammers

Signs of spring, or an economic rebound, or all of the above? Several significant construction projects are moving through the planning process.

Hood River Planning Director Cindy Walbridge gave us a quick overview:

  • Sieverkropp Subdivision, has been approved by the city Planning Commission, for 98 units east of Rosauers out to the edge of the Hood River bluff. The project has some broader implications, which we’re hoping to explore with the applicants as time allows.
  • Ixtapa Mexican Restaurant, pre-application for construction of a new drive-through coffee shop, 6,000-square-foot restaurant and three-bedroom home, on 1.6 acres south across Cascade Avenue from its current location in the Hood River Square shopping center. The applicant is working out details. More later, he told The Buzz.
  • A new, two-story building on 12th Street, north of the Pine Street Bakery and tortilla shop, planned by Billy Sullivan, the same gent who spearheaded those earlier projects. In a brief note to The Buzz, Sullivan wrote that he’s working through the design review process, toward the dream: “There are no details yet other than I am planning to remove the old bike shop building and attempt to build a two-story structure with retail on the ground and spartan lofts above.” Submitted plans show Apple Green occupying space on the south side, and a business called Clay’s Smokehouse occupying the north half. Above those businesses, apartments would open to a deck above pavered patio for the ground-level businesses.
  • Barone Holdings LLC is pushing ahead with completion of its Willow Ponds Planned Unit Development, at far west end of May Street. The project went on hiatus when the housing market slumped around 2007. Plans call for the new portion to cover 9.8 acres, bringing the whole project to 19.3 acres. Early work since 2003 has led to 23 homes on 27 lots. The project has strict design controls, includes nearly 6 acres of dedicated open space. Bio-swales and native plants thrive on captured runoff. More details later.
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Layoffs at Cloud Cap send 25 workers scrambling for other gigs in UAS sector

Cloud Cap Technology, one of Hood River’s tech-sector success stories, is reported to have laid off about 25 percent of its work force on Monday.

A photo clip from the Cloud Cap Technology web site, showing its team.

A photo clip from the Cloud Cap Technology web site, showing its team.

Dan Coulom, public relations manager, confirmed that the layoff affected 25 positions.

“UTC Aerospace Systems reviews its business plan regularly to ensure that our units around the world are staffed appropriately to meet customer requirements,” Coulom wrote in an e-mail. “As part of this exercise, we recently made an adjustment in our Hood River operations through reduction of 25 positions. This action will not affect our business, nor our ability to serve our customers.”

One of the laid-off workers, who requested anonymity, reported a day after the layoffs: “I may have something lined up, so I feel fortunate. Lots of other VERY unhappy folks out there. That’s the hard part with working in the UAS industry, even the hotbed here in the Gorge — you better hope your gig works out.”

Cloud Cap makes guidance systems, stabilized camera applications and engines for the UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) industry, which includes such Gorge-based companies as Insitu and Aeroval.

Cloud Cap, founded in Hood River about 14 years ago, sold to Goodrich Corp. in 2009, and United Technologies acquired Goodrich in 2012, managing Cloud Cap under its UTC Aerospace Systems division.

As all this was unfolding in Hood River, on the other side of the bridge in Bingen, Insitu on Tuesday was celebrating receipt of a new $8.3 million maintenance contract. Ups and downs.

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Tubs of ice cream arrive just in time for annual opening at Mike’s

As Mike Kitts stocks tubs of ice cream in freezers behind her, ice cream scooper Amanda Knox helps relay tubs between delivery truck and the storage area on Monday morning.

As Mike Kitts stocks tubs of ice cream in freezers behind her, ice cream scooper Amanda Knox helps relay tubs between delivery truck and the storage area on Monday morning.

Tubs and tubs and tubs of ice cream moved quickly Monday morning from the delivery vehicle from Prince Puckler’s Gourmet Ice Cream in Eugene to the freezers below and behind the serving shed at Mike’s Ice Cream in Hood River.

Why all the hubbub?

Duh. It’s all in preparation for the noon opening of Mike’s on Tuesday, April 1, the traditional resumption of ice cream service at the downtown Hood River institution.

Service continues through October.

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The Dalles ranks 20th on Smithsonian list of top small towns to visit


(Editor’s note: This is an update to an earlier post, including graphic above and link to Portland Business Journal about fastest-growing cities in Oregon. Thanks to Hood River Port Commissioner Jon Davies for the tip.)

Bravo, to The Dalles, for scoring placement on Smithsonian magazine’s list of the twenty best small towns to visit.

E-mail back-patting immediately greeted the selection, along with celebration of its exclusivity among Northwest communities. One writer noted that the Dalles was “the only town to be so honored in Oregon or Washington!”

Yep, no Port Townsend or Cannon Beach or Hood River. Note, for clarity, that the cutoff was towns having fewer than 15,000 residents.

As we’ve observed before here, these lists have become stock magazine editorial fodder. The country is full of small towns under 15,000 population that might qualify, and eventually will, as the lists cycle through the country in search of new selections evenly distributed across the landscape. The goal is less to create an empirically perfect list, and more to generate broad geographic representation to interest readers  (and advertisers) all over the country. Not being cynical here, just real.

But it’s nice to see The Dalles pop up on such a list. IHOP, it rates. Hood River is great, don’t get us wrong, but some of its devoted denizens can get a little precious at times, as if other Gorge burgs didn’t have merits as well. Said folk can’t imagine anyone actually wanting to live in The Dalles. Fooey. The Buzz loves The Dalles, because it’s so normal. Real. Hard-working. Generous (check out the community Thanksgiving dinner).

From our personal experience, the list includes a lot of pretty nice places — Sedona, Silver City, Steamboat Springs, Ketchum. The Dalles finds itself in pretty decent company. That said, the copy offering rationale for its selection seems a little broad, including Multnomah Falls as one of the nearby attractions. Beyond Rock Fort, the writer might better have cited the St. Peter’s Church, Civic Auditorium, City Hall, Columbia Brewery, Commodore and other historic buildings in downtown The Dalles.

Take a bow, Sunshine City. Here’s the full list:

  1. Chautauqua, N.Y.
  2. Healdsburg, Calif.
  3. Williamsburg, VA.
  4. Steamboat Springs, Colo.
  5. Woods Hole, Mass.
  6. Marietta, Ohio
  7. Beaufort, S.C.
  8. Sedona, Ariz.
  9. Nebraska City, Neb.
  10. Lanesboro, Minn.
  11. Spring Green, Wisc.
  12. Havre de Grace, Md.
  13. Columbia, Pa.
  14. Mount Dora, Fla.
  15. Ketchum, Idaho
  16. Montpelier, Vt.
  17. Harrodsburg, Ky.
  18. Silver City, N.M.
  19. Decorah, Iowa
  20. The Dalles, Ore.
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Gorge River self-serve dog wash biz goes in search of new owner

Rhonda Marlnee is ready to move on from her two-year-old enterprise providing facilities for do-it-yourself dog washers, first profiled here in The Buzz.

“Gorge River,” the only self-service dog wash in the Columbia River Gorge, is situated in “The Heights” near the intersection of 13th and Belmont. It is equipped with two fiberglass tubs and an enclosed drying room.

Marlnee says it has ample parking and room to expand, perhaps into short-term dog-sitting or boarding. Interested? Call Rhonda at Gorge River Dog Wash, 1412 13th St., Suite 100, Hood River, 541-399-4312, or drop her an e-mail.

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April 18 summit will let educators, employers share workforce training needs, strategies

To help ensure that its programs and course offerings best meet the needs of Gorge residents and employers, Columbia Gorge Community College is convening a “summit” conversation involving educators and major Gorge employers.

The “Columbia Gorge Education & Industry Summit” on Friday, April 18, will take place on The Dalles Campus of CGCC.

Keynote speakers are  Dr. Ed Ray, president of Oregon State University, and Dr. Mel Netzhammer, chancellor of the Washington State University Vancouver campus.

Expert panels will address education and training, economic development and private industry.

Suzanne Burd, CGCC’s continuing education coordinator, notes the long-standing efforts of CGCC to work closely with business and industry partners to identify and develop programs to meet workforce training needs. Its health care and renewable energy technology programs are just two examples.

“The summit will allow us to cast a wider net to the education and business communities,” she says.

Ann Harris, OSU Open Campus coordinator for the Gorge, says she and other organizers are hoping the event will allow employers to speak to educators about their hiring needs, and educators to speak to employers about ways they might collaborate to help students of all ages achieve their employment goals.

Helping CGCC organize the event are Clark College (Vancouver, Wash.), Oregon State University, Washington State University, K-12 school districts and regional economic development professionals.

Organizers encourage private employers, early childhood and K-12 administrators, instructors and counselors to participate. To register, visit the event website.

The summit is one of several activities arising from a 2012 series of forums called “Stronger Economies Together,” organized by Mid-Columbia Economic Development District and USDA Rural Development. The forums identified barriers to economic growth. For details, visit www.mcedd.org.

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A full platter of newsy hors d’oeuvres to whet your weekend appetite …

The noisy giant of the snack food world — Frito-Lay — is quietly taking the fight to the quiet Hood-River-based giant of Northwest Mexican food products, Juanita’s Fine Foods. Interesting story in the Vancouver, Columbian, about the stealth effort to create a new tortilla chip line packaged and branded in a fashion designed to borrow heavily from the look and feel of longtime local favorite Juanita’s. Remember, chips from La Cocina de Josefina represent the point on a very big spear aimed at the heart of a family business generating annual sales of well over the $9 million that company president Luis Dominguez told me Juanita’s generated over 10 years ago …

Speaking of food, and Vancouver-based enterprises, The Buzz heard hints over a Burgerville burger in The Dalles recently that the corporate parent of the popular regional fast-food chain had recently loosened the purse strings, and might be giving strong consideration to Gorge expansion — in the Hood River area. A call by The Buzz to corporate headquarters for comment got a response from Sara Perrin, Burgerville’s PR and Media Relations Counsel, who said:  “We currently have a new restaurant in the construction process at Portland International Airport (PDX) which will be opening soon (specific date is still being finalized). We have no plans at this time for a restaurant in Hood River. As you can imagine, Burgerville consistently receives numerous requests for new restaurants from many guests in various communities in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. We welcome feedback from local communities and all our guests about their desires and preferences. Suggestions for future locations can be posted to our Facebook page.” FYI from past experience with corporate comment personages, this sort of non-confirmation is typical — and somewhat meaningless. Corporations never announce firm plans — or even hint at them — until they announce them, with big flourish, at media events, with press packets and lights, camera, action. Denial doesn’t mean the slipped tip isn’t closer to the truth …

Notes from correspondent Jenny Cohen, or Waucoma Bookstore, from the recent and regular casual discussion session organized by several downtown merchants:

  • Lisa Wiltsie of Gorge Dog and Melissa Tokstad of Melika are working to refine designs and slogans for spring and summer light pole banners.
  • First Friday this year starts in May, but the Chamber is still figuring out if it will end in September or October. No closed streets this year. If someone wants to set up a “street vendor” position — selling jewelry or playing guitar or whatever — it will cost $75 for a permit from the city.
  • Concerns are mounting over siting of the Saturday Market at the city parking lot across from the Post Office. Merchants fear loss of parking spaces, and some suggested moving the event to a stretch of closed street. The Gorge Grown Food Network is taking over Saturday Market this year.

Phil Downer, the Seattle principal with the proposed Neal Creek Distillery, has politely declined an invitation to share details about his project. “We are at a very early stage in our project,” he writes. The Buzz has a tickler file note to check in with him, when he gets closer to moving some hootch. …

An earlier version of this post contained outdated information about a forthcoming Job Fair at the Clearwater Executive Plaza. Organizers had not informed The Buzz of changes to their original plans. When they do, we’ll update info for you. …


Shaw spins off Oregon Brineworks from Hood River Organic

Hood River Organic is going through some ch-ch-changes.

Partners Brian Shaw and Dan Thall, who founded a mushroom farm in 2004 up near the old Dee Mill site and have since expanded it to include a variety of other crops and a healthy subscriber-supported veggie basket (aka CSA) program, are amicably separating — so Shaw can concentrate on making pickled products through his new dream enterprise, Oregon Brineworks.

In an e-mail note to customers, Shaw said, “It is with great happiness and a little sorrow that I am stepping down from Hood River Organic to continue with a new start-up venture, Oregon Brineworks.”

He said he has achieved what he wanted with Hood River Organic, and “feel that now is a great time to pass my portion on to Dan and for him to continue operating HRO as we have been for the last 10 years.”

The Buzz is hoping to hook up with Shaw to learn more about the new venture, but in his words, “Oregon Brineworks is a natural fermentation company that specializes in small batch, lacto-fermented foods that are probiotic and made from organic vegetables grown in Oregon and Washington. We have had great sales in the Hood River Rosauers grocery store as our trial store and have hopes of expanding into several natural food grocers throughout the Northwest. We make beet kvass, pickle(s), kraut(s), ketchup and hot sauce.”

Shaw said Hood River Organic will continue to operate as normal with its wholesale program providing restaurants and markets with mushrooms, fruits and veggies as well as its CSA program. Thall will be the sole owner moving forward. Shaw will consult back to Hood River Organic during the transition period.


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