Crook County is located in the geographic center of Oregon in an area of outstanding natural beauty, with a population of approximately 21,000. The county was originally part of Wasco County, but separated in 1882. Crook County was named after General George Crook. Nestled in an ancient volcanic basin, the rim rock plateaus lend their scenic beauty to an extraordinary backdrop. While Prineville is its only incorporated city, the county also includes the smaller communities of Powell Butte, Paulina, and Post.
The City of Prineville was established in 1868 by Barney Prine, who settled on the banks of the Crooked River where he established a blacksmith shop and a store/saloon. Prineville was the primary place of trade in Central Oregon until 1911. Saturated in a rich historical atmosphere, Prineville is a recreational playground that has managed to keep its friendly, small town character and appeal. It is a truly beautiful place to live and work. Prineville is the oldest community in Central Oregon, and was one of the first incorporated cities in Oregon.
Apple and Facebook have reshaped the business climate by adding a high-tech presence in Crook County. Facebook has built the most energy-efficient data center of its kind in the world, taking advantage of Central Oregon’s climate to cool the servers that operate the company’s Facebook accounts. Apple has also built a 10,000 square foot data center operating with room to expand on a 160-acre parcel. The ample and reliable electricity infrastructure, tax benefits, and climate have drawn these companies to Prineville.
Prineville’s origins are tied to the land in agriculture, forest products, the railroad, and manufacturing. Community leaders are united in their efforts to grow and diversify Crook County’s economic base, assuring long-term vitality through the creation of family-wage jobs. Les Schwab Distribution Center and Crook County School District are the top two employers in terms of number of employees.
Prineville has a rich history of logging and wood products and is known for its well-trained blue collar workforce. However, employment is concentrated in several major areas: wood products, Les Schwab, healthcare, and local government. Several ground transport companies provide excellent service and rates for transport to and from major markets. Outside the manufacturing and distribution sectors, agriculture still plays an important economic and cultural role for residents of the town and Crook County. New destination resorts offer another form of tourism and revenue for the county.
Despite the Prineville Railroad losing much of its business after the fall of the timber industry, community leaders have renewed their efforts to make it viable again. With the large railroad companies making fewer stops in smaller communities, Prineville recently created a Freight Depot, with the goal of becoming a regional transportation and storage hub for all of Central Oregon. The State of Oregon awarded the Freight Depot several million dollars in grants for the project.
Another attractive aspect of doing business in Prineville is the low cost and abundance of industrial lands. Prineville boasts over 2,000 acres of affordable industrial land, much of it ready for development. With large tracts of land also available, and a large supply of electric power, companies with big power requirements may consider Prineville for relocation or expansion. With an enterprise zone and a renewable energy zone in place, Crook County offers tax incentives to qualifying companies to help offset the cost of doing business. Other state programs are also available, including the Strategic Investment Program, which offers income tax abatement.
As part of Central Oregon, Prineville offers many recreational activities for the outdoor enthusiast. It is geographically located near several waterways and reservoirs, as well as mountains and many other natural landscapes that provide the opportunity for outdoor activity year-round. The beautiful Painted Hills of Mitchell and the magnificent Smith Rock State Park are just a couple of must-see attractions in this area. Some of the activities residents and visitors of Prineville enjoy are: fishing, hunting, boating, rafting, skiing, snowboarding, hiking, camping, rock climbing, horseback riding, and rock hounding. Prineville also has a strong agricultural heritage that adds its own flair to community events. One popular attraction is a traditional live cattle drive, right down the main commerce area of town. This kicks off the “Crooked River Roundup,” a popular yearly rodeo event. There is also an annual fair and horse race, as well as several other rodeo events throughout the year.
The Crook County School District is one of several public school districts located in Central Oregon. The District serves the Prineville, Powell Butte, Paulina, and Post communities. It currently has an enrollment of approximately 3,480 students. The District consists of Crook County High School ( grades 9-12), Crook County Middle School (grades 6-8), Crooked River Elementary, Barnes Butte Elementary (grades K-5), Brothers Elementary (grades K-8) and Paulina Elementary (grades K-8), an alternative Pioneer High School (grades 9-12) and other alternative programs.
The District sponsors two charter schools. A “place-based” charter school located in Powell Butte serves students in Kindergarten through 8th grade, which focuses on integrating cultural and ecological education into its curriculum. This charter has been operating since the 2010-2011 school year, and current enrollment is 186 students. The other charter is Insight School of Oregon-Charter Option, which is an on-line virtual charter school. This charter was established in the 2012-2013 school year and serves students in Kindergarten through 12th grade. Current enrollment is approximately 525 students.
The Crook County High School offers a variety of dual-enrollment and AP courses that offer students the opportunity to earn college credit while still enrolled in high school. The District also offers professional technical programs, fine arts, and foreign language.
The high school began offering an Advanced Diploma program in school year 2013-2014, which allows students to be dual-enrolled in high school and community college without incurring the costs of college tuition and fees. To be eligible, students must complete the requirements for a Standard Diploma and stay enrolled in the high school for a fifth year. Upon completion of the program, the student receives an Advanced Diploma from Crook County High School and a minimum of 27 college credits from Central Oregon Community College.