Former Wallowa County resident Tyler Hays, now an internationally renowned artist and designer, is making good on his Dec. 22, 2016, announcement he would bring gainful employment to county residents. At that meeting, Hays, who employs more than 100 people at his M. Crow & Co. facility on the East Coast, unveiled tentative plans to build an industrial site on the outskirts of Joseph that would eventually house a brewery, ceramics shop and high-end furniture factory and eventually employing 25 workers.
Those plans have changed slightly: He now plans to add boutique cutlery manufacturing into the mix.
General manager for the project Michael Junkins is living in Joseph, and several full-time temporary employees are working on installing state-of-the-art woodworking machinery to begin producing walnut tables for Hays’ boutique furniture company, BDDW. Hays said he will have five local full-time employees by Sept. 1.
Junkins said that the priority is getting up to speed manufacturing walnut slab tables, which will provide funding to produce the remaining products.
“It’s an already profitable enterprise, and Tyler sells every table he makes,” Junkins said.
For the fledgling production facility, Hays has already purchased a state-of-the-art drum sander, a table saw, a vintage rip saw and a high-end planer and sawdust collection system. Of chief importance to production, Hays also bought a large Computer Numerical Control machine, which is a software controlled three-dimensional carver and router. A technical specialist will arrive in around two weeks to train the crew to run it.
Junkins said that the difficult part of the project for him is tying up loose threads to get production up and running in a short period of time.
“It’s difficult,” Junkins said, “but it’s exciting and awesome.”
Hays, who is overseeing his East Coast concerns, is keeping a close eye on his Wallowa County operations. He said he’d been mulling over the idea of a local factory for 10 years and actively working on the idea for the last four or five years.
Bringing jobs into the county isn’t always welcomed with open arms by others. Hays named his biggest challenge as lawsuits over what he described as “a pile of dirt” on the property he bought for the facility. As a result, he’s been in court several times, winning each lawsuit, but taking valuable time away from the project.
“We’re ready to go full bore now,” he said.
The current production facility isn’t large enough to house the entire industrial complex, but Hays said plans for a 60,000 square-foot building are being drawn as part of a three-year plan to expand the business, which will use either Oregon or locally grown resources.
To that end, Hays is working with local rancher Alan Klages to grow special barley for the future brewing facility. He already has a small licensed brewery at the M. Crow store he owns in Lostine. Products made with Wallowa County clay can be seen on the M.C. Crow website.
“I love this county, and I’m just trying to get some family wage jobs up there,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with tourism, but it shouldn’t be our main thing. Local resources are my priority.”
Hays said the company is looking for a mix of people to fill labor jobs, technical builder and engineer types people passionate about quality products and people who can work in a team environment. He did caution that it would not happen overnight.
“We have big dreams, and we’re going the slow route because that’s the best way. We’re going to need everyone’s help and support to make this work,” he said.
Work inquiries can be made to Junkins by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org