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home : business : business February 21, 2019

4/30/2010 2:31:00 PM
Manufacturing firm leaves Sisters
By Jim Cornelius
News Editor

O'Keefe's Company, manufacturer of O'Keefe's Working Hands Créme, has left Sisters.

Owner Tara O'Keefe sold the company, which employed 20 people in full- and part-time positions, to Gorilla Glue of Cincinnati, Ohio. The company and the jobs are moving to Ohio.

O'Keefe told The Nugget that Gorilla Glue approached her with interest in the company and her secret hand creme formula which O'Keefe, a pharmacist, developed in her kitchen sink.

Joe Ragland of Gorilla Glue told The Nugget that his company liked the product, which is distributed in a similar manner to Gorilla Glue through hardware stores.

"We're pretty impressed with the performance of the product," he said. "It has very loyal customers. The product really works and that's why we like it."

Ragland declined to comment in depth as to why Gorilla Glue chose to move the company out of its Sisters facility.

"Cincinnati is just where we're based," he said.

The economics of operating a business in Oregon was a significant factor in the decision to sell, O'Keefe told The Nugget.

"To be honest, Oregon has a very difficult business climate," she said.

O'Keefe said the decision was "absolutely tied to (tax measures) 66 & 67," which increased income taxes and taxes for some Oregon businesses.

O'Keefe said that Measure 67 impacted her company, requiring assessment of ways to cut costs, which would likely have meant cutting jobs.

"I was Business Person of the Year for Oregon last year and I met President Obama," she said. "The first words out of his mouth were 'small business is the backbone of America.'"

But O'Keefe feels that neither state nor federal governments are supportive of small businesses.

"The people who run Oregon don't care about business, that's obvious," she said, noting that Oregon is now second in the nation in unemployment and has lost jobs across different sectors.

"We didn't lose these jobs a thousand at a time," she said. "We lost them two, three, five, now 20 at a time."

O'Keefe said that the loss to her employees is painful.

"These are hardworking people; I didn't get here alone," she said. "Beyond great employees. I am so sorry about the jobs lost here."

Employees contacted by The Nugget declined to comment for this story.

Patty Vandiver of the Sisters Business Attraction and Retention Team (SBART) acknowledged that the departure of the company is a loss to the economy of Sisters.

"While we are certainly disappointed to be losing a company that has such a good history in Sisters, we understand that business decisions must be made," Vandiver said. "One of SBART's objectives is to help in the retention of businesses here in Sisters and to hear of our citizens facing unemployment is a concern to our organization.  We wish Tara and her employees all the best."

The building in the Sisters Industrial Park is now empty.

"It went very quickly," O'Keefe said. "I think they did their homework before they got here and once they got here it went very quickly... It's very weird. It's a haunting, empty facility that was productive."

O'Keefe noted that Gorilla Glue requested copies of thousands of testimonial letters the company received from customers who like their product.

"Those were the two hardest boxes to watch leave this building," she said.

The sale of the company she built is part a time of transition for O'Keefe.

She said she will continue to work as a pharmacist. She noted that her daughter, Maureen Broadbent, a 2006 Sisters High School graduate, marked her graduation from University of Portland on Sunday. O'Keefe said that her daughter's success is a "credit to the schools" in Sisters.

Related Links:
• O'Keefe earn honors for business

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