By Paul Hodge

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Last year, when Laird Superfood made the decision to open a major manufacturing facility in Sisters, we worked out our facility location, transportation routes and how to train an ever-increasing workforce to deliver sustainable products that fuel people across the globe to perform at their peak. But there’s one critical element of our work over which we have little control — housing for our employees.

We have recently begun the next phase of our growth. As we build more buildings and move toward full operational capacity, we will be ramping up our employee hiring for our new modern facility in Sisters — likely making us the largest employer in town. Available housing is in short supply, and according to a new housing needs analysis in Sisters, more than 1,000 new homes will be needed in the next 20 years. We clearly have a housing supply problem — how will these homes get built and where will our employees live?

We chose Sisters because of its differences: the lifestyle, the pristine environment, the welcoming people, the true sense of community. It all lines up with our ethos of providing clean, nutritious products that add to the health and wellness of our customers’ lives. But when we look at our own employees’ ability to thrive given the lack of housing options in Sisters, we see a problem in need of new solutions.

We need the city of Sisters to partner with us to provide a housing supply that’s capable of sustaining not just our growth, but the growth of every business in Sisters. We need leadership, vision and courage in order to keep housing affordable and accessible to everyone in our adopted town.

And so, to say we are incredibly supportive of the close to 200 homes to be built in the new Hayden Homes McKenzie Meadows Village neighborhood is an understatement. Not only will homes in McKenzie Meadows be financially within reach for our team, an additional 20 affordable homes will be available for families making 80 percent or less of area median income through the 501(c)3 nonprofit First Story and additional rental units. These homes will quickly increase the housing supply in Sisters — a huge impact.

Yes, our employees could commute 30 minutes each way from Redmond or Bend every morning, and, of course, some will choose to do that, but if a commute like that is a requirement to be a part of our team, we will likely always battle recruitment and retention challenges. More importantly to the greater community, the ripple effect of our economic value to Sisters will be dampened dramatically if our employees aren’t able to support local businesses by becoming full-fledged locals. We want to use the power of the economic development we provide to make Sisters an even better place to live and work, but we are limited without the strong underpinnings of a stable housing supply.

In closing, we chose Sisters because it is a truly special place on this Earth, and we want to help retain what’s special here and grow opportunity at the same time. By pulling together in the same direction, we can make it happen. To the Sisters City Council, we ask you to please pull with us at Laird Superfood by approving the McKenzie Meadows Village neighborhood and others like it as Sisters grows.

— Paul Hodge is chief executive officer of Laird Superfood.

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