Home Back Issues January 2010 Roseburg gets an incubator

Roseburg gets an incubator

| Print |  Email
Articles - January 2010
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Light-Bulbs
ILLUSTRATION BY AMBER TAYLOR

City officials in Roseburg have tried mightily but without much luck to diversify the local economy in a town where the largest employer is still Roseburg Forest Products. But a recent $2.75 million federal grant and an ambitious plan to lure technology startups may change that.

The Roseburg Business Incubator and Data Center, or RBIC, is the brainchild of city manager Eric Swanson and Mark Bilton-Smith, president of Rio Networks, which is owned by the Cow Creek band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians. Swanson, Bilton-Smith and other conspirators from the county and community college designed a proposal for the RBIC to be constructed in the old Douglas County Farmers Co-Op, a 25,190-square-foot building in Roseburg’s downtown that has been vacant for years.

The incubator, which will open in the spring, has room for up to 28 businesses that would receive mentoring and exposure to investors. The basement level will house a data center comparable to a Google or Amazon server farm like the ones along the Columbia River. The data center will use a natural cooling system that ventilates underground air to cut down on electricity costs.

Bilton-Smith says the data center will entice Internet providers such as Verizon to build fiber-optic infrastructure to give Roseburg higher Internet speeds — a boon for businesses and residents.

Economic development officials are still sore over the fact that a Dell call center lured by the city suddenly shuttered and moved overseas two years ago, laying off 220 people. Bilton-Smith and city manager Eric Swanson toured business incubators in other cities, including Portland and Corvallis, and designed the RBIC to nurture businesses and entrepreneurs from the beginning, making them loyal to the local community.

But Swanson and Bilton-Smith feel the incubator’s biggest asset is Roseburg itself — its livability, natural beauty and small-town feel, plus easy access to I-5. “Steve Jobs and the Microsoft guys of the future will want to come to a place like Roseburg and live in a place like Roseburg,” Swanson says.

The city also owes a lot to the Cow Creek tribe, which owns the building and received the grant. “We’re all about trying to revitalize downtown Roseburg,” says chairwoman Sue Shaffer.

Bilton-Smith says the incubator already has three prospective “anchor” tenants — established businesses that will rent space until the startups come along. He expects the incubator to be half retail and established businesses in the beginning, with startups gradually filling in the rest of the offices.

Roseburg’s population is about 21,000 and unemployment in Douglas County was 15.9% in October. Based on what he saw at other incubators, Swanson estimates that at least 165 local jobs and $60,000 in outside investment will be generated by businesses that grow up in the incubator. “Of course, one of the businesses could create 5,000 jobs if it was the right thing,” he says. 

ADRIANNE JEFFRIES
 

More Articles

Powerlist: Colleges and Universities

September 2014
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
BY KIM MOORE

A conversation about higher education with the presidents of the University of Oregon and Clackamas Community College, followed by September's powerlist.


Read more...

How to add positivity to your team

Contributed Blogs
Friday, September 12, 2014
happy-seo-orlando-clientsBY TOM COX | OB BLOGGER

I often talk about what leaders can do. What about followers? If you’re a team member and you’d like to add positivity to your team, what might you do?


Read more...

Molecular Movies

September 2014
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

Dr. Chong Fang isn’t God. But the assistant professor of chemistry at Oregon State University is getting closer to figuring out how he put everything together. 


Read more...

Shipping News

September 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
BY JENNIFER MARGULIS

In 2012 The Dalles, a city of some 14,400 located 75 miles east of Portland and often seen as the poor cousin to adjacent Hood River, completed a massive project to revitalize its dock.


Read more...

A Taste of Heaven

September 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
BY VIVIAN MCINERNY

Craft beer comes to Mount Angel.


Read more...

Podcast: Interview with Pete Friedes

Contributed Blogs
Wednesday, August 27, 2014

082714-thumb friedesbookTom Cox interviews Pete Friedes, author of "The 2R Manager," about becoming a Best Boss.


Read more...

Community colleges and sustainability

Contributed Blogs
Thursday, July 31, 2014
sustainabilityBY MARY SPILDE | OB GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

Faced with the aftermath of the “great recession,” increasing concern about the environment and dwindling family wage jobs, we have some very important choices to make about our future.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS