The biggest business news story of the year in Central Oregon was Deschutes Brewery’s decision to lay off 10 percent of its workforce, more than 50 people.

Central Oregon’s landmark brewery faced headwinds as growth in craft beer sales slowed nationwide.

First it delayed breaking ground on a new brewery in Roanoke, Virginia, which was to give Deschutes a stronger foothold on the East Coast. CEO Michael LaLonde even blamed legal marijuana for part of craft brewing’s slowdown.

The brewery then laid off workers in December.

This past year has seen low unemployment, but the rate has steadily crept upward over the past three months, a sign of slower growth going forward, said Damon Runberg, Oregon Employment Department regional economist.

“2017 and 2018 were good years for jobs, stellar years,” said Runberg. “As we moved into the fall, we saw the rate of job growth slowing. The rise in the unemployment rate is because of new workers coming to look for work.”

For the 95,000 workers in Deschutes County, it just meant a longer search, he said.

The year also saw a lot of interest from businesses wanting to set up shop in Central Oregon, said Roger Lee, Economic Development for Central Oregon CEO. The year closed out with about 200 projects in the pipeline, either under construction or pending, Lee said.

“We are still an attractive area because of our health care, education and we have a lot of public amenities here,” Lee said. “Retail, restaurants, arts and culture make us attractive. People see themselves living here.”

As the year comes to a close, the following were the most popular stories that appeared in The Bulletin in 2018:

Oregon grew too much marijuana — both legal and illegal. Law enforcement authorities intercepted $48 million worth of black-market marijuana headed from Oregon to 37 states over a three-year period, and officers blame the illegal exports on a statewide glut of regulated marijuana and low prices.

More than 2 million pounds of marijuana were produced in Oregon, causing a decline in prices. Yet legal marijuana sales grew in 2018 to $11 billion for all segments of the industry.

Bend became home of the last Blockbuster video store. In fact, two Bend filmmakers are working on a full-length documentary about Blockbuster after learning that the only store in the country to still be in business was on Third Street in Bend.

Tourists began stopping by to take selfies with the sign, and 10 Barrel Brewing made a commemorative beer in homage to the video icon.

The Redmond Airport boomed. United Airlines announced that it will bring Central Oregon its first nonstop service to Chicago starting in June 2019.

Alaska Airlines brought the largest jet yet for one of its Seattle flights, and United added a flight to Los Angeles in April. Driving all the new air service was a constant rise in passenger traffic. The airport is so busy, the airport bumped up parking prices and is looking for ways to add parking.

Kah-Nee-Tah, a Warm Springs resort and spa that lost its lure for tourists, shut down after Labor Day. Warm Springs tribal elders protested the closing, which meant all 146 employees would lose their jobs. Most people who worked at the resort are members of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

The resort always required a subsidy from one of the other businesses on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.

First, it was supported by the lumber mill, and then Indian Head Casino. The casino was moved to U.S. Highway 26, leaving the remote resort without a major attraction.

Kah-Nee-Ta has deteriorated since the tribe uncoupled the casino and resort operations.

One of Bend’s most prominent marijuana businesses engaged in a court battle. Recreational dispensary Oregrown sued its former grower, and that grower, Justin Crawn, fired back in a counter suit.

The court battle revealed a marijuana business struggling to get its footing. Crawn is seeking $9 million in damages and claims in a recent court filing that the company deprived him of $600,000 in proportional ownership interest.

Oregrown Industries Inc., which filed the initial lawsuit in August in Deschutes County Circuit Court against Crawn, is seeking $2.7 million in damages, as well as an order stating Crawn is no longer a shareholder and an order for Crawn to return control of social media accounts to Oregrown.

Business owners in Bend feuded over parking. First property owners on Industrial Way blocked vehicle access to an unofficial entrance of Crux Fermentation Project.

Then the owner of The Bakery Building on Galveston Avenue sued his neighbor, the owner of the former Aspect Board Shop, over the use of shared parking for a new business, a beer taproom.

Oregon’s second-largest cider maker, Atlas Cider Co. changed its name to Avid Hard Cider. The change was to avoid a trademark dispute with a Washington, D.C., company that felt the name was too similar.

The new name kept the old logo, font and colors.

Home prices in Bend grew more slowly while the Redmond market zoomed. The median sale price of a single-family home in the Bend area was $433,000, which was even with October and 11 percent higher than November 2017, according to the Beacon Report, which draws on Central Oregon Association of Realtors data.

Robal Road Village opened, but Cracker Barrel did not. The new strip mall on N. U.S. Highway 97 in Bend began filling with tenants including Ulta, Black Rock Coffee and Mod Pizza, early in the year.

Its two most-anticipated tenants, Cracker Barrel and Chick-Fil-A restaurants, were on a slower schedule.

Cracker Barrel is nearly complete and due to open in February. Chick-Fil-A did not break ground in 2018.

Robal Road Village is probably one of the most expensive shopping centers ever built by First Western Development Services of Edmonds, Washington.

Robal Road LLC, whose other partners include Mack DuBose and Jeremy DuBose, bought the 6.5-acre property in 2016.

— Reporters: 541-617-7860, kmclaughlin@bendbulletin.com; 541-633-2117, sroig@bendbulletin.com

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