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Central Point shows signs of growth

CENTRAL POINT - It's been nearly a quarter of a century since the city's coffers were enhanced by overnight tourists paying a transient room tax.

But that changed this week when a 68-room Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott opened its doors at 1777 LaRue Drive, just off Interstate 5.

It's not as tall as the landmark grain elevator towering over the juncture of Pine and Front streets and doesn't match Albertson's 60,000 square feet across the freeway. But the hotel is another sign that the community of 13,000 residents is gaining economic influence.

"Our owners considered this the next growth area (in the Rogue Valley)," hotel general manager Nathan Mischel said.

Fairfield Inn is one of three new businesses that have recently or will soon open. Four Seasons Marine, a boat maintenance and repair shop has located at 476 N. Front St., where Central Point Plywood Sales formerly operated. Rogue Federal Credit Union plans a grand opening for its newest branch in the Mountain View Shopping Center on Plaza Boulevard.

"It bodes well all the way around," said city planning director Tom Humphrey. "It encourages people to stay in Central Point to check us out. We our trying to establish our own identity, separate from Medford."

New business licenses have increased modestly. There were 164 licenses issued through June of this year, compared to 159 last year and 148 in 1999.

The city's last motel, the El Rancho at 3838 N. Pacific Highway, owed its existence to travel along Highway 99 and first appeared in the telephone directory in 1949. When Interstate 5 pushed through a mile to the east, the old motel's days were numbered. The El Rancho Motel last appeared in the Yellow Pages in 1978.

But the city's 6 percent hotel room tax remained on the books.

Humphrey said the city anticipates $22,000 to $35,000, depending on the motel's occupancy.

Fairfield Inn hopes to capitalize on visitors to the Jackson County Expo as well as business travelers. It won't, however, serve as a conference and banquet center. It is the only Fairfield Inn between Lake Oswego and Sacramento.

Franchise owner Hotel Investment Property Two is a partnership of local owners and Exeter Hospitality Associates Inc., of Springfield, which will manage the property. Exeter Hospitality operates Residence Inn by Marriott in Eugene along with Courtyard by Marriott, Comfort Suites and Holiday Inn Express properties in Springfield.

"We chose a Marriott-aligned franchise, because of the strong name Marriott has with business travelers," said Mischel, who worked at a Ramada Inn before joining Exeter Hospitality 31/2 years ago.

The hotel employs 22 people, of which 50 percent have previous industry experience. The hotel phone number is 665-4141.

With 16,500 registered boat owners in Jackson and Josephine counties, Tim Fihn figures there will be plenty of work at his shop. Four Seasons Marine handles repairs on sport and powerboats as well as personal watercraft.

Four Seasons services several lines of motors and can order new outboards as well

The shop's phone numbers are 831-0105 and 665-2920.

The Central Point office will be RFCU's fourth. A grand opening is scheduled for Aug. 30.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail gstiles@mailtribune.com