Hood River’s bustling economy is the result of over a hundred years of working with what the environment and climate have to offer. The Missoula Floods that rose at the end of the last ice age left the Hood River Valley fertile and hospitable for fruit trees, while it made the Cascade Locks area into a fishing and trade mecca.
A century ago, an influx of international immigrants and U.S. citizens from back east provided the labor that planted the orchards. They built the first shops downtown, and staffed the hotels that sprung up along the railroad line.
In the 1980s and 1990s the rapid growth of wind sports, specifically windsurfing and now kiteboarding, stoked the flickering tourism flames. After 1986, Hood River found itself in the heart of the country’s first National Scenic Area. The beauty and the recreational opportunities in the windswept gorge brought Hood River County into its present spot as a top tourist destination in the Pacific Northwest.
The wind also gave birth to a slew of companies making surfing components like carbon fiber masts. Though these designers and manufactures knew they were shaping the image of things to come in windsurfing, they never could have known that their creations would someday soon evolve and mutate into the birth of the Unmanned Ariel Vehicle—yes, the drone—and its myriad iterations.
Aviation giants like Boeing came calling for the lightweight, wind and weather resistant materials, and Hood River’s manufacturers were ready to supply UAV industry needs throughout the world. That’s how the wind gave birth to the area’s most rapidly growing industry, and how Hood River has arrived on the national scene as a technological hotspot just an hour outside of Portland.