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

Fly Zone

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY JOE ROJAS-BURKE

The black soldier fly’s larvae are among the most ravenous and least picky eaters on earth.


Read more...

Corner Office: Sheree Arntson

January-Powerbook 2015
Saturday, December 13, 2014

Checking in with the managing director of Arnerich Massena.


Read more...

Growing a mobility cluster

News
Friday, October 31, 2014
0414 bikes bd2f6052BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Why are there so few transportation startups in Portland?  The city’s leadership in bike, transit and pedestrian transportation has been well-documented.  But that was then — when government and nonprofits paved the way for a new, less auto centric way of life.


Read more...

Editor's Letter: Power Play

January-Powerbook 2015
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:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

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!

— Linda


Read more...

Political Clout

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY KIM MOORE

Businesses spend billions of dollars each year trying to influence political decision makers by piling money into campaigns.


Read more...

Dan and Louis Oyster Bar opens up to a changing neighborhood

The Latest
Thursday, December 11, 2014
121114-oystervidBy MEGHAN NOLT

VIDEO: Revamping a Classic — an iconic eatery stays relevant in a changing marketplace.


Read more...

See How They Run

January-Powerbook 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.


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