Ashland has been known for many decades as a place for innovation, creativity and intelligent, independent thinking – the perfect environment for business growth. While Ashland has a relatively small population base at just over 22,000 residents, we enjoy an economy greatly enhanced by higher education as the home of Southern Oregon University for over 140 years. This sets the stage for a highly educated workforce and population, an engaged citizenry, and knowledgeable public with the majority of those over 25 holding a bachelor’s degree or higher underscoring an historic legacy of education and culture.
An established tourism base with over 350,000 visitors annually underscore the quality of life and exceptional cultural amenities grounded by the presence of the of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival since 1935. Offerings of theatre, music, dance and the visual arts allow people to create their work here but be recognized throughout the country for excellence. The outdoor recreation industry has expanded in recent years and is a draw for those operating businesses as well as those choosing our area to visit for these world-class opportunities.
Specialty manufacturing, food and beverage producers and artisans thrive in a creatively supportive environment. Independent ownership of small business is well-represented from local retailers to restaurants featuring award-winning chefs along with a bourgeoning craft beer and wine industry throughout Ashland and southern Oregon.
The health care and wellness industry sectors are strong and growing. Small innovative technology companies and film makers benefit from a high fiber network with AFN (Ashland Fiber Network) allowing them to do business globally. Businesses who have the choice to operate anywhere choose Ashland and a high percentage of home-based businesses underscore the appeal.
As of 2019, has 272 employees at the hospital and another 100 employees with the Asante Physician Partners clinics. Wages and benefits total over $25 million annually for the hospital. Recently, they purchased the Ashland Orthopedic practice employing those surgeons.
The City of Ashland has over 250 employees and a total annual payroll of just under $20 million. Employees of the City manage and maintain key electric, fiber, water and transportation infrastructure essential to the success of the local economy as well as public safety and parks and recreation services that maintain an outstanding quality of life.
A significant amount of economic activity occurs in the form of home based businesses throughout the city. Many of Ashland’s most successful firms began as home-based businesses, and when they outgrew their homes, moved to larger facilities. According to the 2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-Year estimates, over 1,100 employees were located in residential zones (12.5 percent).
At 16.7 percent, Ashland has a high percentage of self-employed workers (2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year estimates). In Jackson County as a whole, 10.9 percent of workers are self-employed, while 7.4 percent of workers across Oregon fall into that category. Ashland’s higher percentage is attributed, in part, to strong residential bandwidth provided by AFN.
The number of firms increased by #127 from #1,177 to #1,204
Employment increased by #1,459 from #9,371 to #10,830
Total payroll increased from $291,311,491 to $401,759,909
Average wages increased from $31,086 to $37,097
Ashland Hills Hotel, slated as a tear-down, was purchased and completely renovated offering individual and group travel successfully operating with bookings beyond 2021
The restaurant industry expanded with major renovations of existing facilities and the development of new cutting-edge offerings. Many of the chefs receiving state and national awards and recognition
Retail expansion and growth of local business with one local owner expanding into four unique locations downtown (Paddington Family of Stores) along with other specialty retail expansions in the downtown and future growth plans outside the downtown core
The Ashland Railroad District has grown and expanded its business offerings catering to not only a local but visitor clientele
Significant expansion of manufacturing with the growth of Darex Inc. and BioSkin
Sustainable businesses expanded with True South Solar and the relocation of Wholesale Solar to Ashland just to name a few
Technology firms increased their expansion and world-wide reach
Craft brewing industry expansion with the growth of Caldera Brewing Company
Wine industry has expanded dramatically in the last ten years with more vineyards, wineries and tasting rooms but also with world-class award-winning wines
Tourism in Oregon is a $12.3 billion industry that directly generates more than 115,400 jobs in Oregon with secondary impacts that create another 56,960 jobs. An estimated 29.1 million overnight visitors traveled to Oregon destinations in 2018. Travel spending, employment and earnings continue to expand. The Oregon travel industry continued to exhibit strong growth in 2018 as all measures of travel activity were up over 2017. As the key driver to Oregon’s economy, an increase of 4.2% in 2017 marked record visitor spending in our state with nine consecutive years of growth. Southern Oregon surpassed the $1.1 billion revenue mark in 2018 within the five county region fueling over 12,300 tourism related jobs.
In Ashland, thousands of tourism jobs generate millions of dollars a year in lodging and food and beverage taxes not to mention the support of hundreds of businesses. Anchored by the almost 85 year old (founded in 1935), world-class, Tony award-wining Oregon Shakespeare Festival, a creative culture fosters an arts and entertainment industry and thriving restaurant and lodging industries. Cultural and culinary amenities abound with primarily independently-owned businesses.
Tourism promotion is a key element of the City of Ashland Economic Development Strategy and is the front door for economic development inquiries.
The reason visitors visit Ashland is diversifying beyond the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to the outdoor and culinary experiences one can have here. With the emerging wine industry and Rogue Valley Vintners branding the identity of the wines offered in the region, many are seeking that experience as the reason to come to Ashland for the first time and then discovering the array of cultural amenities that Ashland has been most known for.
Over 100 restaurants, micro-breweries, wineries, numerous galleries, music and theatre, and specialty shops feature home décor, cookware, books, specialty clothing boutiques jewelry, pottery fiber arts and more adding numerous reasons for visitors to come to Ashland expanding our base.
Ashland’s quality of life, climate and natural resources are sustained through our visitor base that seeks out the natural beauty and respects it through responsible recreation. With a highly-educated visitor base, Ashland is growing in notoriety of being a rafting, cycling, trail running and hiking destination. A champion steward of the land, Mt. Ashland Ski Area sits atop the Ashland Watershed and has implemented sustainable practices for decades to ensure the health of the land, water and forest continue.
The Arts, Entertainment & Recreation (AE&R) industry represents 39 firms and 894 jobs in Ashland. Average annual pay is $33,588 in visitor-related sectors in Ashland. This exceeds industry averages statewide. Source: Oregon Employment Department, 2017.
Ashland’s higher-paying jobs reflect its rich cultural, historical and recreational offerings. In fact, it is likely that worker pay is understated in Ashland’s AE&R industry for several reasons. Similar to the Retail Trade sector, the AE&R sector likely has numerous small businesses whose owners and their pay are not reported here. Additionally, the average wage of Ashland’s AE&R sector is further dampened by the volume of part-time workers hired seasonally.
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