ENTEPRISE – With more than 40 years running one of Wallowa County’s most successful businesses John Hillock announced his candidacy for commissioner earlier this month.
Hillock, “I’ve been toying with the idea for 10 years, but part of the reason I am running is because the phone was ringing off the hook – people asking me to run.”
Hillock and his Enterprise Electric crew have long been known as accessible to both volunteer organizations in need of an electrician as well as their rapid response to their customers’ middle of the night outages and emergencies.
Son Jared Hillock has worked with the company for nearly a decade and son Andy is an apprentice on the crew that now totals nine employees. This summer saw the completion of a new shop, built to accommodate the company’s growing staff and rental business.
After serving the county as a dedicated volunteer and business leader most of his life, Hillock said he is ready to focus his energy on county government.
The time is right, my son Jared is ready to take over, and I’ve always had a passion to do good things,” Hillock said.
John Hillock started his career as an apprentice in the family business, after finishing his associate’s degree at Lane Community College in Eugene. He said by the 1980s the father-son team made a conscious decision, he said, to bid every state and federal job available so contracting jobs would stay in the county.
A growth in business over the last ten years, in part due to the burgeoning solar industry, allowed Hillock to not only increase the county’s family-wage earning jobs but kept solar contracting local.
“Doing bigger projects gave us a niche,” Hillock said. “We were always competitive because we didn’t have the travel costs of the out-of-town contractors. Our own economic development effort kept public works jobs local, our staff employed, and that income spins into the local community.”
Over the years Enterprise Electric won bids for lighting, water and sewer projects for the cities of Wallowa, Enterprise and Joseph as well as solar installations at Wallowa Memorial Hospital and Cloverleaf Hall at the Wallowa County Fairgrounds.
The solar incentives, Hillock said, amounted to an excess of $1 million from USDA, Oregon Energy Trust, state and federal tax credits into the community.
Hillock, “Economic development comes with risk, but we were lucky it panned out.”
While helping his father grow the family business Hillock said in the 1980s he was involved with Wallowa County’s Economic Development Corporation, an organization that attracted investors to different local projects including bringing $75,000 to Valley Bronze in Joseph.
Since 1974 Hillock said he has been involved with the Chief Joseph Days Rodeo and a director for many years, but he and his crew are well known for their willingness to help may of the county’s county’s charitable organizations’ electrical needs.
“I’ve been toying with running for commissioner for 10 years, Hillock said. “I’d be good for this job – I’ve been serving this county for 49 years I never turn anyone down even on a Saturday night.”