Prineville – In the Center of It All

By Greg Henderson

It might have been 45 million years ago that the Crooked River Caldera was under nature’s construction. The ground shook and mountains grew and exploded into molten lava and ash that made Mount Saint Helens a rather ho-hum spectacle. Today the 10,000 people living in Prineville, call the center of the caldera “Home”. On August 21, 2017 thousands of people dropped by to take a look at another amazing natural spectacle, the total eclipse of the sun. Until you’ve actually seen an Eclipse in Totality you can’t appreciate the soul-shaking experience that it is. It belongs on everyone’s bucket list.

Tourism, the US Forest Service and BLM provide an economic stability since timber faded in the past few decades. Prineville is now experiencing a robust rebirthing that many believed might never come. But this is a town who believed in the early 1900’s that in order to avoid becoming a Ghost Town they needed a railroad for shipping lumber and logs. When the railroad tycoons bypassed the town, citizens voted to build their own railroad by doing so in connecting to the main line 19 miles away. You can be born with an independent mindset or you can be forced into it. Either way the citizens of Prineville are willing to face the challenge. So, the town survived on its determination.

Known for ranching, and timber since Oregon’s statehood, growth and change came slowly. In 1952 Les Schwab appeared with his small tire business and the bold notion that providing excellent service to customers was a good business success plan. A few years ago, it was reported that Les Schwab reached a level of success in the $1.5 billion range with about 390 stores in six western states. Apparently, good customer service is a useful idea. It was 2006 that Les Schwab decided to move its corporate headquarters to Bend. That same year Starbucks began serving coffee in town, a sure sign of the town’s 21st century arrival.

By taking advantage of the Enterprise Zone opportunities through the State of Oregon agency, “businessOregon” ( Prineville was able to negotiate favorable incentives for new businesses to locate in the community.

Outgoing Mayor of many terms, Betty Roppe will tell you in her loyal and enthusiastic love of Prineville way, that the news of high technology giant Facebook deciding to build a data center in Prineville was a welcome
one. Six years later, in 2012, Apple came to town.

There are those who thought city leaders were giving away too much in tax revenue in their desire to persuade technology giants to town. If nothing else, it put Prineville on the map again. People in the businesses of economic development, education, and modern industrial creation will be looking at Prineville as a model of how to move forward and what hazards may be in the way.

“I believe we are positioning Prineville into a very stable future by focusing on creating infrastructure for industrial growth and stability. Our upgraded water and wastewater systems are some of the most forward -looking investments that will provide long benefits while keeping user costs stable. We are addressing street issues prior to crisis, again keeping upgrade costs to a minimum. Our railway system accommodates heavy industry at no added cost to the taxpayer providing us the means to recruit industrial business that would not have been able to function efficiently here otherwise. Providing opportunity for businesses is on the minds of all communities. We want to provide an environment where business can be most successfully operated, where they will choose to come. Through that effort we provide opportunities for family wage, benefitted jobs and diversification that will endure the ups and downs of the economic cycles.” Steve Uffelman

About the City of Prineville
Located east of the Cascade mountains in Oregon’s high desert, the City of Prineville is a resurgent rural community that has preserved its small-town, ranching roots and Western lifestyle while embracing smart growth in a business-friendly environment. With a population nearing 10,000 residents, the county seat of Crook County attracts a diversity of business and lifestyle interests, including tech giants Facebook and Apple, recreational enthusiasts, and a thriving agricultural industry. Incorporated in 1880, City of Prineville operates the oldest continuously running municipal short line railway in the U.S., as well as a public golf course, and airport. Prineville boasts numerous recreational assets, including the Ochoco National Forest and Crooked River, and remains a popular destination for anglers and hunters. For more information on City services and programs visit

Steve Uffelman

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