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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.”
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER
Spring rains are the bane of an Oregon cherry farmer’s existence. Even a few sprinkles can crack the fruit so badly it’s not worth picking. Science to the rescue: Researchers at Oregon State University have developed a spray-on film that cuts rain-related cracking in half, potentially saving a season’s crop. The coating, patented as SureSeal, is made from natural chemicals similar to those found in the skins of cherries: cellulose, palm oil-based wax and calcium.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
While most categories of commercial real estate have performed well, one of the most robust has been apartment buildings.
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
One year after he was appointed chair of the Portland Development Commission, Tom Kelly talks about PDC's longevity, Neil Kelly's comeback and his new role as Portlandia's landlord.
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY ANNIE ELLISON
Portland tech veteran Ben Berry is leaving his post as Portland’s chief technology officer for a full-time role producing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) aimed at first responders and the military. Berry’s AirShip Technologies Group is poised to be on the ground floor of an industry that will supply drones to as many as 100,000 police, fire and emergency agencies nationwide. He reveals the plan for takeoff.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN
Like all good journalists, OB editorial staff typically eschew freebies. But health care costs being what they are, digital news editor Jacob Palmer couldn't resist ZoomCare's offer of a three-in-one (cleaning, exam, whitening) dental office visit, guaranteed to take no more than 57 minutes.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Oregon’s new marijuana law is expected to lead to a bevy of new business opportunities for the state. And not just for growers. Law firms, HR consultants, energy efficiency companies and many others are expected to benefit from the decriminalization of pot, according to panelists at an Oregon Business breakfast meeting on Tuesday.
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
BY JASON E. KAPLAN | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
New Jersey and Oregon are the only two states in the U.S. that ban self serve gas stations. But these two holdouts may be ready to give up the game. New Jersey is considering legislation that would lift the state's ban on pumping your own gas. Oregon is considering smaller scale changes.
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Tonkon Torp helps seed sustainability at Gunderson.
Oregon-based Environments helps companies create inspired workspaces. “Simply put, we help companies future-proof their workspaces,” says Chris Corrado, president. Since 1988,Environments has witnessed firsthand the changing landscape of business. Native Portlander and Environments founder Corrado says, “We help our clients navigate the complex realities of the workplace today and plan for their future in a very mindful, strategic way. We think of ourselves as their partners in the process.”
One hundred years ago, the Willamette River might easily have been mistaken for a sewer. Unchecked industrial activity and decades of pollution made it unrecognizable compared to the clean river that now flows north for 187 miles from Eugene through the center of Portland.
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Bend energy leader brings passion for efficiency and renewable energy to the nonprofit.
Event in Forest Grove marks recognition of Global Food Safety Initiative Certification.