Our primary mission is to promote economic development and growth in the city of Tonasket and surrounding area. We wish to assist and promote existing businesses wishing to relocate, local businesses wishing to expand and local individuals wanting to startup a business.

Opportunity Tonasket It’s a Lifestyle Choice
Opportunity Tonasket It’s a Lifestyle Choice

Q&A with Dave Kester | Opportunity Tonasket

Tell us about yourself and the goals of Opportunity Tonasket.

Our combined interest is to increase the economic base of the Tonasket area.  We think there is lots to offer if rural living is desired.  

Jeff McMillan is retired after spending 40+ years in the fruit business.  Currently on the Tonasket city council.  Jeff graduated from Washington State University and is a life long resident of the Tonasket area. His family has been in this area in excess of 100 years.  

David Kester came to Tonasket in 1995 and purchased the local hardware store.  He graduated from Montana State University and the University of Montana with a BA in accounting and an MBA.  Dave liked this area and chose to move from Montana, finding a lot of similarities to the rural town where he was raised.  

Dave Hanna moved to Tonasket from western Washington 33 yrs. ago, just like so many others. After 5 years of various small businesses and employments, he decided to get into real estate.  Dave is the realtor who's there helping do pump tests, gravel roads, remove brush and move furniture. He is a big fan and promoter of the area and wants to see it grow and prosper.

Roger Castelda, a retired attorney from 42 years of practice in Tonasket and served as a Municipal Court Judge for 18 years. Roger is a Retired Military Combat Veteran, and is currently looking to help bring new businesses into Tonasket. Roger is the co-founder of the US Armed Forces Legacy Association.

Together they all respect the rural way of living and want to maintain that.

What prompted your group to begin this program?

Dave was familiar with a similar program in Montana where he worked for 25 years.  After discussing it with a few folks in the area and when we felt it was time to make a move the COVID-19 Pandemic began.  They saw an influx of folks fleeing the coast areas and spending the summer in Tonasket.  It was time to encourage them to bring their businesses and join us.


What makes Tonasket stand out from other rural communities for a small manufacturer?

Tonasket has ingenuity.  We have every talent a small or even a medium sized community would want. We are on the crossroads of highway 20 and 97 in Washington State.  Our community has a hospital and three medical clinics.  Our schools are excellent and sporting activities abundant. People come here from all over to recreate, relax, and retire.  We have many lakes to enjoy.  We have an abundance of qualified and hard-working citizens.


As a small manufacturer is their land, facilities and infrastructure in place or would they be starting from scratch?

Tonasket offers a little of everything.  Our primary goal is to fill the buildings that once housed the fruit processing plants and the controlled atmosphere storage facilities.  

But it all depends on the needs of the manufacturer.  There is land available.  Most processing facilities had three and four phase power to them.  Electrical power rates have been very reasonable.  High speed Internet is available.  Transportation services are also available.  Our initial goal was to attract a small number of manufacturers that required 6-18 employees.  If our endeavor is successful, we may need to grow into our future with those new businesses.


What kind of business and manufacturing already exists within Tonasket and the surrounding area?

The following businesses exist within a 25-30 miles around Tonasket.

  • Metal fabrication

  • Knife manufacturing

  • Resaw mill

  • Lumber mill

  • Mining

  • Fruit processing and drying

  • Fertilizer manufacturing

  • Trucking operations


How do cost of living and the tax advantages compare to other parts of the country?

The cost of living is less here than the urban settings.  It stands to reason that if our housing, tax, labor, utility costs are less we can sell our local goods and services for less.  Rural areas vary from community to community as well as from state to state.


Logistically what makes Tonasket so appealing? 

Tonasket has all the services, just more remote.  From a business standpoint that may not be appealing.  From the owner’s point of view, we can have them leaving work at 4:00pm, fishing by 4:30, and back home in time for dinner at 6:00.  

Tonasket has several shipping and delivery services available.  The quickest ones would be coming from Spokane or Wenatchee.  Bretz, for example, delivers daily from the Wenatchee area.  The delivery service is generally overnight.

Other well known services are UPS, USPS, and FedEx.  One or more of them operate air service out of the Omak airport which is 30 miles/30 minutes away.

We are also served by FedEx freight and Chelan Transfer.  They bring larger items and palletized goods.  Larger trucks are in the area daily, delivering whole and partial truck loads of goods and materials.

There are a couple freight brokers in the Tonasket area, several trucking operators, and numerous independent truck operators.  


Where would a potential manufacturer find workers for their plants? 

We currently have people living in Tonasket that work in Omak and surrounding areas.  Because of the lack of traffic, it takes roughly 30 minutes to drive 30 miles on the main routes.  Allow a little more time if someone lives in the hills.  Businesses will be pleasantly pleased with the talent, skills, and work ethic of most people that were raised here.  

Okanogan County which comprises of a little more than 5,000 square miles has a population of 42,000 people.  Tonasket is in the north half of the county.  The three communities are Oroville with about 1,500 people, Omak/Okanogan area with roughly 6,000, and Tonasket with just under 1,000 people.  Estimating the population within 30 miles of Tonasket at more than 10,000.

Wenatchee Valley College has a campus in Omak.  The Omak campus has a facilities and programs to enhance business, computer and medical skills.  In addition they offer some course requirements for degrees that can be obtained at the main campus in Wenatchee or on-line.  Some courses that may be of interest to manufacturing  are electronics, drafting, engineering, machining, and welding. Wenatchee is located 120 miles south of Tonasket, a 2 1/4 hour drive.

Tell us about the schools, recreation, entertainment, and lifestyle Tonasket can offer to make it an attractive place to live for manufacturing executives and the employees.

Schools and education are the big factors.  Our high school offers a great FFA (Future Farmers of America) program.  This involves livestock and fruit judging but also involves welding, auto mechanics, wood working, parliamentary procedures, and more in the core subjects.  Students become well prepared for college.  Many students come back to the area when they finish a trade school or obtain an associate’s degree.  

Our lifestyle is predominately rural.  Rodeos, barrel racing, demolition derbies, outhouse racing, and fishing events are always a popular event.  Weekends with family, friends, or neighbors are quite common.  The seasons are well represented.  Hunting, fishing, skiing, snowmobiling, four wheeling, and hiking are popular.  Don’t pick just one, do them all.  There are even a couple nice golf courses in the area.


How can your group help a small manufacturer establish themselves in Tonasket, WA?

The job of Opportunity Tonasket is to introduce you to our community.    Although a few of us still work, we encourage you to utilize our professionals.  Call any of us, we will chat with you.  We can point you in a couple directions, give you names, and answer questions.  We are not involved with this organization to serve ourselves.  We are here to help our community and you.

The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of ManufacturingTomorrow

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