Playground maker moving operations to Baker City

October 23, 2002 12:00 am

By LISA BRITTON

Of the Baker City Herald

A father and son business will be moving to Baker City soon, and will be fully operational by February 2003.

Al and Ted Hausotter have recently chosen Baker City as the new home for their business, Natural Structures. Al is the owner and Ted is the general manager.

Currently the manufacturing organization is located in Sherwood. It started out as a construction company in 1973. Since then, they have changed from construction to the manufacturing of playground equipment, picnic tables and water slides for water parks as well as for residential pools.

Jennifer Watkins, community development specialist with the City of Baker City, made initial contact with the business in October 2001 by sending them information about Baker City. After that, Watkins said she didn't hear anything until August 2002 when the men expressed renewed interest in the town.

The Hausotters then came to Baker City in September of this year to tour the community to look at potential building areas, and meet with community leaders.

"We got pretty serious, pretty fast," she said.

Last week Ted sent a letter to Watkins and Bob Shepard, economic development director for Baker County Unlimited, informing them of the decision to relocate Natural Structures to Baker City.

Construction of the 30,000 square foot building will begin next month, Ted said, on 7.5 acres in the Elkhorn View Industrial Park. The projected finish time is in February 2003.

The company's busy season begins in March.

Natural Structures will bring 25 to 30 jobs to Baker City with wages ranging between $10 to $15 per hour. They will be looking for employees for their office, shipping, paint, wood shop, and both certified and non-certified welders.

Ted said they will offer the option of moving with the company to current employees, but he's "more concerned with hiring people here." He plans to send new hires to the site in Sherwood for training.

Natural Structures works with a variety of materials, including wood, steel, plastic and fiberglass.

"The fiberglass is brand new to us. It's the steel work we kind of shine in," Al said.

The company is relocating due to rezoning of their property in Sherwood for more commercial businesses.

"The city of Sherwood decided they want commercial services instead of industrial," Ted said.

Also, by moving to Baker City, the freight time is reduced by seven hours. Most of their products are shipped to the East Coast, although there are a few small water slides in Pendleton, Ted said.

During the recruitment process, Watkins and Shepard looked for incentives in the community to entice relocation to Baker City. Construction estimates were gathered, and grant funding was committed from the state for $15,000, as well as $50,000 from the Baker/Morrow Regional Partnership.

Local contributions were also secured to help offset the company's costs in the amount of $25,000.

"This was a way the community came together to make something happen," Shepard said.

Watkins said Natural Structures qualifies for the Enterprise Zone, which means they will be exempt from property taxes for three years. Also, they will receive a 50 percent building permit rebate and 25 percent savings on water and sewer rates for three years.

Ted said they hope to have opportunities for working with other Baker City industries, such as Behlen and S&R Industries. There's also a possibility of expanding the business, he said, as they become more involved with using fiberglass.

"We're sort of old fashioned," Ted said, and would like to manufacture most materials at their own building.