Central Oregon’s largest employer, with nearly 4,500 employees, is again St. Charles Health System, a ranking it has held for the past 17 years, according to new data released by Economic Development for Central Oregon.

St. Charles was followed by milling company Bright Wood Corp. with 1,138 workers and Sunriver Resort with 1,000 employees.

The top 50 employers collectively employ more than 21,000 workers, accounting for about 21.5% of the region’s total employment, according to the report released Thursday.

There were about 99,400 employees in Central Oregon as of the first quarter of 2019 and more than three quarters of employers are small businesses with nine or fewer employees, Damon Runberg, Oregon Employment Department regional economist, said in a prepared statement.

The number of employees in Central Oregon has been tracked for the past 20 years and is used to paint an economic picture to lure new business to the area, said Roger Lee, Economic Development for Central Oregon CEO.

“One of the most important things this data shows is the industry diversity among Central Oregon’s largest employers,” Lee said. “While St. Charles is the region’s largest employer, we have representation from businesses across the spectrum — manufacturing, tech, biotech, data centers, tourism and brewing.”

Over the years, Central Oregon has been home to large employers, but economic cycles and changes in business trends have affected the marketplace.

Sunriver Resort is the region’s third-largest employer with 1,000 employees, down from its second-place ranking last year. Tom O’Shea, Sunriver Resort’s managing director, said the resort hovers between 950 to about 1,000 employees each year. During strong economic periods, the resort hires more full-time employees then part-time, O’Shea said.

“Tourism is solid,” O’Shea said. “Central Oregon continues to grow and it continues to be a great place to visit. Our employment numbers show the strength of the economic when we have more full-time employees.”

St. Charles’ employee numbers fluctuate, as well. In the past 10 years the facility has doubled the number of hospitals it runs and operates, expanded its services and grown its medical group. It now employs nearly 4,500. This month the health care facility will open a new 52-bed patient tower, and add 100 new employees.

“We’re seeing an overall higher patient volume,” said Lisa Goodman, St. Charles public information officer. “As Central Oregon has grown, so has the demand for health care, which is a labor-intensive industry. We’ve also worked hard to increase access to family care throughout the region and continue to grow our specialty services.”

— Reporter: 541-633-2117, sroig@bendbulletin.com