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home : business : business May 25, 2016

6/10/2014 1:24:00 PM
Sisters business has national reach
Benny Benson, William Song, David Wentworth and Wes Lawrence know that the quality of life in Sisters can attract business. photo by Jim Cornelius
+ click to enlarge
Benny Benson, William Song, David Wentworth and Wes Lawrence know that the quality of life in Sisters can attract business. photo by Jim Cornelius

By Jim Cornelius
News Editor

Quality of life brought the partners of Evensol (Environmental Energy Solutions) to Sisters, and over a year of operation they have found that they can have all that Sisters Country has to offer, while becoming players in a national and even international market.

Evensol brings together financial, engineering, and project-management expertise to acquire and develop Landfill Gas to Energy (LFGTE) facilities. They are affiliated with ENERGYneering Solutions, Inc. of Sisters (ESI), which designs, builds, and operates such projects worldwide.

"Our company is the next step, and that is to own the power plants," said Wes Lawrence, managing partner with Evensol.

The company is in the process of purchasing three existing plants and building three new plants. Evensol puts together the capital to make the acquisitions, then contracts with ESI to build and operate. Both companies operate out of Sisters Eagle Airport.

Lawrence's background is in the banking and finance industry. He and his family moved to Sisters four years ago and he continued to commute to Colorado for his work. Deciding he had enough of constant travel, he joined with ESI president Benny Benson, engineer William Song, and development specialist David Wentworth to form Evensol.

Song, who also serves as ESI's senior engineering manager, hails from Southern California. Evensol managing partner Wentworth grew up in Pittsburgh and had spent the previous four years in the go-go-world of New York. Both had long-established working relationships with Benny Benson.

Wentworth's story is the classic Sisters tale. He visited Sisters and decided he had to live here.

"It only took one visit and one drive down from Portland," he said.

Wentworth doesn't miss the frenetic pace of New York.

"It was sort of pace-for-pace's sake," he said. "You're going 110 miles an hour because everybody on your left and on your right is going 110 miles per hour. (In Sisters) we go exactly as fast as we need to, when we need to."

The range of experience and expertise that the Evensol team brings to bear, along with their affiliation with ENERGYneering Solutions, Inc. puts them in a strong position in the marketplace.

"The need to have actual technical talent to build and run things is really key for market advantage," Wentworth said."

Song, who worked with Benson in Southern California, moved here in 2008. Originally from South Korea, he found living in Sisters to require adjustment, since the smallest city he'd ever lived in had a population of 2.5 million. But he's made that adjustment and has learned to love the benefits of living where nature is readily accessible.

"That's been one of the greatest benefits, to go outside at nine o'clock and see the stars," he said.

And he finds that being in Central Oregon is no impediment to doing his job.

"Travel is part of the job wherever you live," he said. "The only difference in Central Oregon is I typically have to take one more airport hop.

"Infrastructure, easy access to air travel, and good Internet service are functional requirements for our business. Sisters has these in place, and continues to improve."

"As recent as five years ago, the infrastructure was more difficult," Benson noted.

He's had a major role in improving that infrastructure, with significant improvements to the runway and services at Sisters Eagle Airport making it more practical for private pilot/businessmen to operate here.

Business support, from financial to legal, is also readily available.

"If it's not here in Sisters, it's not far away or could be brought here," Benson said.

ESI has recently brought on several employees to support Evensol's work: Two mechanical engineers; one electrical engineer; one CAD draftsman; two engineering interns; and two accounting staff.

"There will likely be 30 new employees added before the end of the year," Benson anticipates.

The jobs are the type of family-wage jobs Sisters has long sought to cultivate, and Lawrence and Benson see more possibilities.

"The second impact (beyond employment) is attracting more firms to Sisters," Lawrence said, "sending a good message to other companies that are thinking of locating here."

The impact of that will be substantial. The kind of employees Evensol and ESI are bringing to Sisters are young professionals, many with families, drawn to small-town living, outdoor recreation, a vibrant culture, and strong schools. That will have an important impact, especially on a school district that depends upon enrollment growth for funding.

"I asked our newest engineer why he moved here and why this job," Lawrence told The Nugget. Ben Burke, 24, is a mechanical engineer who graduated from OSU Engineering School and grew up in Hillsboro. He wanted to get into the renewable energy field and was excited to see an industry job corporately located in Sisters. While the job attracted him, so did the area, especially the emphasis on enjoying outdoor activities.

Many folks want to live in Sisters, but the challenge can often be making ends meet.

"That barrier is often based on what do you do for a living," Wentworth said. "The demographics will change meaningfully when families have a reason to be here."

Wentworth noted that the quality of life not only attracts talent, it helps keep it and bond a team together through sharing it. That's what he's seen at the businesses located at the airport.

"I've never seen more esprit de'corps among a group of engineers," he said.

Evensol projects acquisition of 10 companies in two years. With that growth will come a growth in staff, and if the hopes of the principals come to pass, a foundation for Sisters to attract other companies with a similar culture.

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