Hayden Homes, founded in 1989 by Robert Watson, has been building homes and communities in Central Oregon and beyond for more than two decades. Watson’s original vision, “to provide the highest quality home at the lowest possible cost,” has since become part of the company’s mission statement — words that his son, Hayden Watson, current Hayden Homes CEO, continues to stand by.
Today, Hayden continues to take it a step further. In addition to growing Hayden Homes into the largest home builder by volume in Central Oregon, the company is also among the top 50 builders in the nation with communities in Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
Recently honored with the Central Oregon Builders Association’s (COBA) “Builder of the Year” award, Hayden Homes is one in a select group of honorees chosen by its peers. COBA, a nonprofit trade association with a membership that covers all of Crook, Deschutes, Harney and Jefferson counties, had twice as many nominations for the coveted award this year than in previous years.
According to COBA Executive Vice President Tim Knopp, it is not easy to win the award. A selection committee reviews all of the nominations and chooses the recipient based on a clearly defined set of criteria that includes association and membership activities, industry accomplishments and civic activities.
“It is a sought-after award, but difficult to win,” said Knopp. “You can’t win without putting in a lot of time and energy into the community and into the association. And I don’t think you are going to find a builder more involved in the community and more focused on their mission than Hayden Homes.
“They’ve been in business in Central Oregon for 20 years, and they have founded a nonprofit organization First Story) to help people get on the path to home- ownership. They live out their mission even on the nonprofit basis.”
It is this commitment to giving back to the community that Watson is most passionate about.
“… I was raised to give back to the people around me.
It was as simple as helping your neighbor.”
“My parents, Bob and Virginia Watson, were believers in people,” said Watson. “They believed that if you had the opportunity to help someone, that you should. By example, I was raised to give back to the people around me. It was as simple as helping your neighbor. First Story represents that giving spirit that my parents left for myself and Hayden Homes to continue.”
First Story, a nonprofit organization founded by Watson in 1998 and originally known as the Hayden Giving Fund, was created to provide a way for the company and its employees to give back to the community. The organization has grown to include a housing grant program that has served 41 families, 125 children and more than 100 at-risk young adults to date.
Additionally, the organization’s Community Giving Grant Program has awarded nearly a half-million dollars to support organizations dedicated to creating opportunities for low- income families, youths and persons in need in Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
While First Story is governed by an independent board of directors, it is Hayden Homes, its employees, trade partners and suppliers that are the backbone of the program — raising the majority of the funds and seeing that the homes are built. Hayden Homes employees contribute generously to the organization, and the company matches 100 percent of those donations.
First Story utilizes a sustainable funding model based on corporate partnerships, principal- only payments from homeowners, an endowment, and charitable fees attached to each home that Hayden Homes builds.
“For each home we build, we rely on and engage builders like Hayden Homes, dozens of trades and suppliers, and local leaders and community members,” said Watson. “We could not do what we do without the tremendous outpouring of support we receive from the communities we build in.”
Looking back on the legacy that his father began building more than 20 years ago, Watson believes that his parents would be proud of where the company is today.
“There is no doubt that my parents had high expectations, so anything less than success would be unacceptable,” said Watson. “I think through good times and bad, you are tested in your beliefs, and I think they would be proud that our organization has kept its focus through a difficult economic time and has given back where we could.”
Despite rough economic times across the nation, Watson remains more determined than ever to continue to build the mission of Hayden Homes — providing high-quality, affordable housing and creating communities.
“I think the American dream is alive and well,” said Watson. “That being said, our country has been through a difficult time, and the illusion of homeownership as an investment has been tested. However, the testimonials of families referencing stability, confidence, safety, peace of mind, and their home becoming a home for their entire extended family and a place to celebrate birthdays and holidays is stronger than ever.”