While Congress continues to do little or nothing to improve our lives, locally at least, there’s a feeling of recovery. Maybe it’s the bustling main streets of our north county towns. People seem to be out and about shopping, eating, doing business. Old businesses are improving their shops and others are willing to take a chance and starting up new ones.
A good indicator of progress seems to be how much new construction, both residential and commercial takes place in your area. While it’s not 2007, according to Assessor Scott Furman, Oroville was able to bump the Methow into second place once again when it comes to new construction. Tonasket was a strong third.
In Oroville, Reman and Reload invested $10 million in upgrades to their wood products plant and recently Gold Digger Apple put in a new high-tech cherry line.
Obviously the new construction of vacation and other residential homes has improved – more people are taking a chance on our little towns. While money is still tight everyone needs a place to live or play and our little bit of heaven is slowly being discovered and not just by Canadians. I was out of town last weekend and attended a couple of functions in the Seattle area. At a birthday party I got into a long conversation with a young woman who said she had lived in Oroville for a while as a child and that her grandmother still lived here. She said she had good memories of Oroville and always wanted to come back and have an orchard. No sooner had I finished talking with her than I had a tap on my shoulder from another woman who asked, “Did I hear you talking about Tonasket?” I said I ran the Oroville-Tonasket newspaper. She said she and her husband had property above Tonasket and had built a home “off the grid” and that she loved it here. She wondered when they would be able to quit the big city and move here full time.
I told you that as an example of how things have seemed to have changed. It used to be hard to describe where I was from. I had to ask a bunch of questions to try and help whomever I was talking to on the coast zero in on just where Oroville was. After saying Oroville was about four miles from the BC border, I’d ask things like, “Do you know where Osoyoos is?” Well, surprisingly not so long ago most people answered “no.” They didn’t know where Penticton was either. They might know Omak if you said, “oh you know, where the Suicide Race is, where they race the horses down the hill.” I’d get frustrated and finally say, “Do you know where the Grand Coulee Dam is?” and usually I’d get a “sort of” and explain the boundary for the county runs right through the dam. That really didn’t explain where Oroville was, but by then I’d get tired of trying. We might be from the largest (in area anyway) county in the state, but surprisingly a lot of people from the west side didn’t really know much about Okanogan County in the 1980s, at least in my unscientific polling. If they did it was because their parents brought them here to hunt and fish when they were kids.
Guess what most people said when I finally got people to kind of know where I was from. They’d ask if Oroville was anywhere near Twisp or Winthrop. They’d invariably say their family or a friend’s family owned property up there. Perhaps that has something to do with the Methow usually having the most new construction each year. It’s not really a competition, but it’s good to see Oroville back on top and Tonasket right up there. I’m thinking it won’t be so hard to explain where I’m from to those Coasties in the future. If not, I’m going to start carrying a map (well, point it out on my iPhone anyway).