The Ashland Daily Tidings published an article today about light industry in the town. It contained some quotes from a few of the local captains of industry and closed with this section about Brammo’s CEO and some of his concerns with how the city is handling the growth of the sector, generally, and his company’s expansion efforts, in particular:
Light industry faces challenges
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Craig Bramscher, chairman and chief executive officer of Enertia electric motorcycle manufacturer BRAMMO Inc. in Ashland, said he would like to see more light industry — especially green businesses — cluster in town.
If a new hire doesn’t work out at BRAMMO, he or she will probably have to move away to find a new job because there are relatively few businesses like BRAMMO here, Bramscher said.
He said no one at BRAMMO makes less than $10 an hour. Mechanics and assemblers can make $20 an hour, while engineers make $50,000 to $125,000. Of BRAMMO’s 40 employees, 25 are engineers, he said.
Bramscher said the hardest part of doing business in Ashland is the development side of the equation. He said he’s facing a challenge in trying to get a road put through for his company.
The Oregon Economic and Community Development Department has provided a $500,000 loan and $400,000 grant to extend Jefferson Street in a move to promote BRAMMO’s growth.
Bramscher was tasked with getting the plans and permits for the street extension, but still hadn’t done so in November. The Ashland City Council voted that month to spend $28,425 for the city government to hire an engineering firm to get that planning work done and speed up the project.
Bramscher said he was pleased to learn of the council’s decision after being in China for several weeks. He said city staff members have been supportive, but it’s hard for a business person to have time to work on development issues.
“The city has been waiting for me to do things. They should help businesses get infrastructure. In a lot of cities, if you’re bringing in jobs, they’ll bend over backwards,” he said.
He said businesses, especially start-ups, have little time to take raw land and develop it. When it comes to attracting light industry to the Croman Mill site in the future, Bramscher said it would be beneficial for the city to have infrastructure in place and pre-approved projects at the site.
In November, the City Council authorized city staff to apply for up to $1 million in state grant funding to help pay for a primary street through the Croman Mill site. A street there would make it easier for medical software maker Plexis Healthcare Systems to expand from its A Street location in Ashland to the Croman site.
Bramscher has advocated for an economic development zone in Ashland where taxes would be waived for a period of time to encourage businesses to build. Some fear that businesses would use the zone during the tax-exempt period, and then exit Ashland. But even if some did, they would leave behind buildings that could be used by the next business, which would pay taxes, Bramscher said.
He said he’s been told that city officials can’t consider creation of an economic development zone until an economic development strategy has been adopted.
Bramscher said he hopes the economic development strategy will help Ashland find ways to be more attractive to business, including light industry that uses green technology.
“If you’re not putting out a welcome mat, you’re putting out a ‘you’re lucky to be here’ mat,” he said.