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|Archives - January 2008|
|Tuesday, January 01, 2008|
The Gorge effect
Forget the storied orchards and iconic wind sailors. Dozens of tech companies producing everything from unmanned aircraft to solar energy are finding the Columbia River Gorge is the place to do business.
By Michelle V. Rafter
Picture Oregon’s high-tech hot spots and the bucolic riverside community of Hood River isn’t the first that springs to mind. But the Columbia River Gorge region, best known for orchards, wineries and windsurfing, steadily and without much fanfare has become home to an assortment of tech ventures in numbers strong enough they’re reshaping the very nature of industry in the area.
What’s happening in the Gorge is a classic example of economic clustering, where a bunch of companies in the same industry benefit from being located near each other. The proximity lends itself to local partnerships and idea sharing. The downside is that companies work near competitors and employees get poached or leave to start their own gigs. But the positives outweigh the negatives. Because of the cluster, when sales reps or parts distributors come to town to see Insitu or other big companies, they stop at the little ones, too, says Arthur Babitz, a Hood River city councilman and co-owner of a two-person animation equipment company. “We’re on the map now.”
Insitu has used part of its newfound wealth to give back to the community. When the city of White Salmon couldn’t afford to repair a 1940s-era former high-school building, Insitu leased half the ailing structure and spent $350,000 renovating it into the company’s software research lab. In the short time Google’s been in The Dalles, the company has started a number of community outreach programs, including providing IT support for local fire and emergency departments.
In addition to bringing high-salaried knowledge workers to the area, tech companies have improved wages for local residents. At the Gorge’s larger tech companies, average annual incomes range from $40,000 to $60,000, and 90% of owners and their employees have health insurance, according to a report on the Gorge tech cluster published in early 2007 by the Gorge Tech Alliance, a local tech business advocacy group.
Another milestone came in 2004, when a handful of tech executives formed the Gorge Tech Alliance to give local companies a base for networking and joint marketing efforts. With staff contracted from the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District, the Gorge Tech Alliance today holds regular meetings and education sessions and has developed marketing materials promoting the area as a great place for “lifestyle entrepreneurs.” The group is also amassing data on its members, all the better to understand the financial impact they’re having on the area “so we can raise the awareness of officials and the public,” says White, with Custom Interface.
Perhaps the biggest example of the tech sector’s growing significance in the Gorge was Google’s decision to open a 30-acre server farm in The Dalles, taking advantage of cheap electricity, available land, a generous package of tax incentives, and QLife, an existing 18-mile fiber optic loop funded by a consortium of local government agencies.
To that end, companies do the usual help-wanted advertising on Internet job boards and at local colleges and university campuses, and then some. The Gorge Tech Alliance held its first job fair this past November, attracting seven hiring companies and 40 job seekers. While the numbers sound small, organizers say they’re pleased with the amount of follow-up interviews scheduled. Insitu’s worked around the workforce problem by maintaining an office in Vancouver, Wash., for employees who can’t or don’t want to sell their homes. The company also changed an in-house policy against spouses working together to attract more married working couples.
Google runs a shuttle bus for eight or 10 employees commuting from Portland, and another for employees from Hood River, arrangements that parallel commuter services Google offers in other cities. It’s “a younger workforce and they want the hustle and bustle of the city,” says Ken Patchett, Google’s site manager in The Dalles. “It’s a good way to mitigate it for both sides, because we get people who are happy at work and live where they want to live.”
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY JOE ROJAS-BURKE
Bans on genetically modified crops create uncertainty for farmers.
Friday, October 24, 2014
How does your workplace stack up against competitors? How can you improve workplace practices to help recruit and retain employees? Find out by taking our 100 Best Companies to Work for in Oregon survey!
Monday, November 10, 2014
BY KIM MOORE | OB RESEARCH EDITOR
A market for low-carbon transportation fuels has a chance to flourish in Oregon if regulators adopt the second phase of the state’s Clean Fuels Program.
Friday, October 24, 2014
A majority of respondents agreed: Local vineyards should remain Oregon-owned and quality is the most important factor when determining where to eat or buy groceries.
Thursday, December 11, 2014
There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:
The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace.
Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.
This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay.
Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.
New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”
That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!
Friday, December 12, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER
Studying ground-running birds, a group that ranks among nature's speediest and most agile bipedal runners, to build a faster robot.
Thursday, November 20, 2014
BY OB STAFF
Farmers, grocery stores and food processors cash in on kale.
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While the Bend City Council ultimately upheld the approval which enables OSU-Cascades to move forward with the 10 acre site, it did also thoughtfully consider the nature of its code requirements, resident concerns and OSU-Cascade’s efforts and suggestions and crafted conditions of approval to address potential impacts of the site in the area.