Economic development can be fun!

Green Springs Inn & Cabins wrote 25 paychecks this week.

We have employees working in construction, housekeeping, gardening and all sorts of restaurant jobs. Some of them are heading households. Some are students or single adults. Our staff ranges in age from 18 to 63. Some work full time and some part time.

These are not Google or Facebook jobs. There will be no IPO and none of us are likely to be buying private islands in the Caribbean. But in some cases these jobs are feeding, clothing and housing families. Several employees are investing in educations that could lead somewhere.

Green Springs Inn and other rural Oregon enterprises do not get tax breaks or any sort of government assistance. We do, however, depend on other pubic assets: forests of tall trees, rivers of clean water, fresh air, predators and prey, birds and wild flowers.
In other words, our success depends largely on Southern Oregon’s most precious resource: our relatively intact natural environment.

Can you imagine enjoying a breakfast of savory biscuits and gravy on a deck overlooking a vast clear cut? Would a subdivision make the drive up Highway 66 to the Green Springs more breathtaking? How about a hike through denuded mountains?

Unlike some industrial activities, recreation and hospitality do not need to damage the environment in order to produce income. A tree that becomes a load of logs generates a one-time infusion of cash to our economy. An intact forest can support an income stream that flows forever.
In terms of minimizing damage to the natural world, can businesses like Green Springs Inn do better? You bet. We already figured out how to make deluxe cabins from dead and dying trees, creating an economy to protect the rest of our woodland from being cut. We have more ideas for reducing the direct impact and carbon footprint of our business.

Is our model a complete solution to the economic problems of Southern Oregon? No, of course not. Our region needs knowledge-based industries that generate wealth from ideas and do not require smoke stacks. But it seems likely that the sort of people who work in such industries would like to live near healthy forests and wild rivers.

Meanwhile, responsible visitor-based businesses that depend on those same resources can help build a stronger economy.