Why did Deschutes choose Roanoke?

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BEND, ORE (WSLS 10) – For most of 2015, it seemed every few weeks or so we were asking ourselves whether Deschutes Brewery had decided whether it had chosen Roanoke as its East Coast location.

We now know that the Star City was the choice and that the beer maker will begin construction in 2019. But why Roanoke? Did the grassroots campaign by local citizens really make a difference?

I traveled to the company’s headquarters in Bend, Oregon to find out.

Deschutes Brewery President Michael LaLonde put a cardboard box onto the table in his office in Bend.

“Actually I received this box during the courting,” he says, referring to the time when Roanoke was trying to woo Deschutes into locating in the Star City. LaLonde holds up two CD’s with homemade labels. “Some gentleman wrote a song and here are the lyrics,” he said.

He also had a painting depicting the portion of the Roanoke skyline that shows the famous Dr. Pepper and H & C Coffee signs. Beside the others, the painter added the Deschutes logo.

What they were looking for

Around Bend, there are clues as to the company’s preference in living.

At this company, the employees’ taste in lifestyle is almost as important as that of the beer.  And they like it with a healthy portion of the outdoors.

“We really believe in collaboration as an organization. Getting different people involved, so that you have alignment in an organization. That’s really important to us,” explained LaLonde, as he discussed how much the company’s workers enjoy outdoor sports such as kayaking, cycling, hiking and rock climbing, to name a few.

The company needed an East Coast city, which like Bend, had good water.  But they also needed a central location with transportation options, like interstates.  Of course they wanted good schools and a solid workforce. Then there was the X factor, the part that would make the company feel at home.

“We looked at a lot of really terrific communities, beautiful communities. And everybody’s got some kind of economic package they’re offering,” said Fish.  “It’s like, set that stuff aside. Let’s figure out what we need. Because a year after were open that kind of stuff will be pretty meaningless. We need to figure out where we are supposed to be,” said Fish.

And in Bend, amazing outdoor adventure opportunities surround the city.  No matter where they landed, said both Fish and LaLonde, there would need to be similar activities for their workers.

Digital marketing manager Jason Randles agreed that the outdoors and the smiling faces go hand in hand.  “We work in a brewery and we live in Bend, Oregon, if you’re not happy I don’t know something’s wrong,” he said just prior to a mountain bike ride along the Deschutes River.

So Then they went looking.

“So then we started going out and visiting. We started with about 30 different properties that we went and physically looked at with about five or six different people from our senior management team,” explained LaLonde.

But it wasn’t just senior management. The company’s “culture club,” made up of workers from every part of the operation also visited Roanoke and the other finalists.

While here, they went mountain biking, hiked to Dragon’s Tooth and partied in downtown.

“They came out, looked at the different properties and came back to Bend, and as a group we basically made a decision. And went around the room and heard everybody’s input on why they liked Roanoke. And then at the same time we had Deschutes 2 Roanoke campaign going, which really felt good to us.”

The culture club voted and the choice of Roanoke was unanimous.

“The people were warm and generous and welcoming in Roanoke and it continued. And the kind of grassroots campaign that developed out of the community itself. They weren’t people being paid to recruit us, they were people that genuinely thought that we should be there,” said Fish, clearly appreciative of the Deschutes 2 Roanoke campaign.

Added LaLonde, “We felt great about a town that really wanted us to come there and had all the attributes that we were looking for. And so we made that decision and it’s been great ever since.”

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