Les Schwab Tire Centers began in Prineville in 1952 as OK Rubber Welders. Nearly 70 years later, it’s one of the largest independent tire distributors in the nation.
Crook County Judge Seth Crawford knows lots of people in the Les Schwab Tire company. But, he hasn’t had a chance to speak with any of them, due to the holiday.
“Les Schwab has been a part of this community for a really long time. They’ve done great things for their employees and also the community; 4H, sporting, high school, middle school, all the schools,” He says, “They have done a lot to make this community a better place.”
It’s that commitment to Crook County he hopes will continue … regardless of who owns the tire giant, “I just hope whoever purchases it is going to have that same community-mindedness. And also take care of their employees.”
in 1952 Les Schwab borrowed $11,000, sold his house and borrowed against his life insurance policy to purchase OK Rubber Welders. By the end of his first year in business, he quintupled sales. The rampant growth continued.
Today there are more than 490 Les Schwab Tire Centers in 10 western states with more than a billion dollars in annual retail sales.
The company headquarters moved to Bend’s Juniper Ridge in 2008. But warehouses, manufacturing and a distribution center are still in Prineville, leaving many employees and the community at large, to wonder what the future holds.
And, Judge Crawford expects the county will be involved in helping shape that future, “I think reaching out to whoever purchases it and talking to them about being a community partner and working with us. It’s something we do with all companies that come here. Crook County will continue to work ‘at the speed of business’ and do whatever we can to help companies thrive here.”
The company’s board and shareholders—all relatives of Les Schwab—say they are selling the company to position it for additional growth and success.
Some estimate the company is worth at least $3 billion.