Creswell’s quiet economic powerhouse

Wise Women Herbals

CRESWELL – The global dietary supplements market was valued at around $140.3 billion in 2020 and is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.6% from 2021-28. 

So why should residents of Creswell care? Because a leader in this explosive industry calls the city home and is poised for tremendous growth in the coming years.

Earth Lab Holdings – the umbrella company which operates Earth Lab Botanicals, which in turn manufactures products for its Wise Woman Herbals and Superior Labs brands – just might be Creswell’s best kept economic secret. 

In two buildings on Mill Street, along with another on Oregon Avenue, the company currently employs around 70 people in approximately 40,000 square feet of space. This makes Earth Lab the largest private employer in Creswell today. Earth Lab produces more than 300 dietary supplements and botanical formulas for distribution locally, as well as globally.

Yet the real story of Earth Lab is where the company is heading in the future and how that trajectory might also bring benefit to the city it calls home.

In a recent conversation with Earth Lab’s CEO and board chair, Elliot Rohde, the 15-year dietary supplements veteran and UC Berkeley and Columbia Business School alumni, talked about his affection for the supplements industry, his company, and his new hometown.

“I love Creswell, but I didn’t want to at first,” he told me recently over the phone. “We purchased the company in 2015 and I have to admit, we really thought of relocating it to Eugene, perhaps right on the bike path, and take advantage of the more recognizable address to help recruit people.”

Yet after spending time in town, he soon realized that Creswell offers more than meets the eye – both for his employees and their families.

“The longer I looked at it, the clearer I saw how great Creswell was and is,” he continued. “Geographically, it’s a great location between Eugene/Springfield and Cottage Grove; it’s relatively affordable; it’s rich in agricultural resources where we can source many of our raw materials; and being a westerner, I really appreciate the lack of sprawl and natural beauty. In short, it’s a perfect location for our 70 employees and their 250 or so family members, which was a huge consideration for us and the ethos of our company.”

Ryan Huff, an employee, agrees. A transplant to Creswell a few years ago, the materials specialist said, “I have lived here since 2016 and absolutely love being here. You can experience everything from hiking the forest to areas that remind me of the desert landscape I grew up in. The Willamette Valley is a place that anyone from any walk of life can feel at home.”

Leveraging its location and amenities has certainly paid off for Earth Lab. While the company traces its roots back 30 years, its growth and success really took off after Rohde and his team came on the scene. When purchased in 2015, the operation consisted of about 20 employees and 10,000 square feet. That has more than tripled today, and his vision for the company over the next three to five years is to have more than 150 employees operating in 100,000 square feet or more.

Some of that growth can be directly tied to the old axiom that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Rohde credits much of his company’s success to the fact that many people are looking beyond traditional healthcare and mainstream nutrition to live more healthy and happy lives.

“The word supplement implies that you are adding something to improve or fix,” Rohde said. “In many ways our food system and healthcare system are broken and in crisis, and thus people are looking for ways to take personal control of their nutrition and health.”

Rohde also points out the interesting convergence of generational adoption and the impact the pandemic has had on people’s thinking about health. While Baby Boomers and Generation X populations have long made up the core market for the supplement industry, Earth Lab is seeing a recent doubling of its addressable market, and the biggest growth segment within that group are 20-somethings. What’s more, that growth rate is occurring right in the middle of the worst health crisis in the past 100 years – COVID-19. 

“I almost feel bad saying this, but we actually have done pretty well during the pandemic,” he said with a hint of both pride and humility. “Our sales increased significantly in 2020, and I believe that during the worst of the pandemic, people really started to think about their health and well-being. From there, it was only natural for people to turn to natural remedies for health-related issues, including stress and mental health. We are looking at doubling our manufacturing footprint in town.”

Rohde referred to his own experiences with the healthcare system to illustrate the point. “There was a time in my life where I had pretty bad insomnia and when I consulted my (doctor) for help, he went right to the big guns like Ambien! I thought, why not try a more gentle, natural approach and see if that might work first.”

In addition to the sales growth, Rohde says that the company did well to keep their employees and customers safe during the past year and, as an essential business, suffered not a single lost day due to COVID-19 exposure. He credits the company’s attentiveness to its employees and the work the leadership team did to provide staffers with the resources they needed to do their jobs while staying safe and healthy.

Speaking of the leadership team, Earth Lab not only employs leading experts in supplements, but has also assembled a management structure which is gender diverse. This is not accidental, according to Rohde. “I have no problem saying that I believe women tend to think more about their health and their family’s health than men. For me as CEO, my most important role is hiring great people and allowing them to do their jobs, and I couldn’t be happier with the team we’ve assembled. Currently about two thirds of our employees are women and that includes our management team. We value diversity and inclusion as part of our values.”

Cassandra Johnson, a Human Resources coordinator/payroll specialist, points to the driving force of the company’s mission. “Earth Lab offers a positive work environment,” she said. “Everyone knows and understands their role within the company. We all understand we are here for a common goal. Everyone cares about the quality of our products as well as one another. At Earth Lab I feel valued not only as an employee, but more importantly as a person.”

As he and his diverse team have built Earth Lab, there is a deliberate strategy of helping to build Creswell, too. Earth Lab wants to make Creswell and the surrounding region a hub of excellence in the natural food and supplements category. Already a leader in the third-fastest growing industry in Lane County, Earth Lab is setting its sights on a mutually beneficial growth strategy for company and city. 

“I want Creswell to become known around the state and nation for its natural products brands and companies,” Rohde said. “But just as Earth Lab must continue to revolutionize with technology and infrastructure, so too must Creswell. In order to keep our talent local, we must work together to improve all the amenities and elements that help make a city very livable and enjoyable.”

Through the company’s expansion plan and deepening relationships with local municipal and business leaders, Rohde and team hope to propel Creswell and the supplements industry to new heights.

“What’s so special about Creswell is that you really can get to know the mayor and the council and other leaders who impact our economic development. I hope we can work together to push the quality envelope of both a company and a city to become truly great. I don’t want to say that Creswell can become the Silicon Valley of supplements, but why not set our sights high?”



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