The Modern Fan Co., a light manufacturing business in town that supplies ceiling fans for homes, Starbucks coffee shops and hotels, will be able to expand after the City Council unanimously approved an annexation request that will pave the way for a new 17,650-foot warehouse.
The Modern Fan Co. is an important business in town because it does light manufacturing and provides jobs, City Councilor Eric Navickas said.
"This is the type of business we need to be supporting in Ashland," Navickas said, calling the company a "model example" of the type of businesses that the town needs.
Mayor John Stromberg said the council's approval of the one-acre annexation on Washington Street means that The Modern Fan Co. can remain in Ashland. The unanimous vote came on Jan. 5.
"The planning action allows them to grow and stay in our community," he said.
The land where The Modern Fan Co. will build the warehouse was under Jackson County jurisdiction and was zoned for residential development. The annexation into the city limits came with a zone change that allows for business development.
Ron Rezek, who founded The Modern Fan Co. in Ashland in 1997, is the majority owner of the company and creates the contemporary designs for the fans.
Components come in from China and Taiwan, then are assembled into fans in Ashland. Fans are sent to distributors around the world from Mexico to Australia, he said.
Rezek said The Modern Fan Co. requires an unusually large amount of warehouse space because the company offers a variety of fans and keeps 12,000 in stock.
"We've grown from zero to about $7 million in sales," he said.
The Modern Fan Co.'s sales have dipped about 11 percent during the recession, but some of the company's competitors have seen sales plunge by 50 percent, Rezek said.
The company has 11 employees, nine of whom live in Ashland. It supplies fans for apartments, houses, new Starbucks locations, hotels that include the upscale Bellagio in Las Vegas and other customers, Rezek said.
He said there isn't an economic advantage to having The Modern Fan Co. in Ashland, other than that the town is on the Interstate 5 corridor. Rather, Rezek said his company is in Ashland because his family has a 100-year heritage in the Rogue Valley and Ashland is a good place to raise children.
Light manufacturing firms that want to grow in Ashland have traditionally faced hurdles because of the relative lack of building space in town, high land costs and what some people believe is a stringent land use planning process.
Surrounding communities — especially White City, with its plentiful land zoned for industrial use — have the potential to syphon off Ashland's light manufacturing businesses and attract new businesses that want to locate in the Rogue Valley.
The city of Ashland is working to create an economic development strategy in the hopes of diversifying past its seasonal tourist-dependent economy.
The manufacturing industry typically pays higher wages, offers longer work weeks and provides better benefits than the retail and service sectors that dominate Ashland's economy, according to Guy Tauer, regional economist for the Oregon Department of Employment.
Ashland also is hoping to attract more environmentally friendly light industry by creating a redevelopment plan for the former Croman Mill site. The land east of Tolman Creek Road is the town's largest block of undeveloped land.
Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.