Oregon’s Tech Hubs: Part II
Thursday, October 25th 2012 by Skip NewberryThis past summer, I did a blog post on some of the things I learned from visits to technology hubs around Oregon, including the Gorge, Bend, Corvallis, and Eugene. This past Tuesday, I had an opportunity to visit Southern Oregon for the Rogue Nexus e-Business Consortium Launch Event, which was organized by Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development (SoREDI). In the span of about 24 hours, I met with software companies, a manufacturer of silicon wafers (Rogue Valley MicroDevices), a number of online businesses, and toured a datacenter (Data Center West).
The Launch Event culminated with the unveiling of a new website profiling a number of e-businesses, tech companies, and service providers throughout Southern Oregon: http://www.roguenexus.org/. The folks at SoREDI said they liked the framework and mission for Techlandia.org, and so they created a tech directory focusing on the unique story and subsectors of Southern Oregon. But the website and database was only the icing on the cake. The real triumph was the enthusiasm of the 100+ business and economic development professionals and local elected leaders who attended the Launch Event. Every person I spoke with was involved in some aspect of what appeared to be a four-part economic development strategy focused on 1) industry promotion, 2) networking events, 3) collaborative workspace and 4) access to capital.
The thing about Techlandia.org is that, as far as messaging is concerned, it does not ignore or shy away from the attractive elements of what makes Oregon such an enticing place to live. To recognize these assets is not to diminish the competitiveness of Oregon companies and workers. One statistic mentioned at the Rogue Nexus event is that Southern Oregon boasts a concentration of e-businesses that is 11x greater than the national average. These e-businesses, some of which are approaching $100M in revenue this year, could have located in any number of regions around the country, yet they chose Southern Oregon.When I asked one of the attendees what brought him to Southern Oregon, the response was: "Look at this place. It's beautiful. Now that you've seen it, you'll probably want to move here, too.”
As the technology workforce grows increasingly mobile, Oregon's tech hubs offer a strong value proposition to entrepreneurs and other talented professionals. While natural beauty or a change of scenery might have brought people here in the first place, it's becoming harder to ignore the growing numbers of very serious, highly-competitive tech companies clustering into networks throughout the state. At the event I also listened to a very recent transplant—from Santa Barbara—talk about why he moved three companies to Southern Oregon. The cost of doing business was dramatically lower in Southern Oregon, and he could get connected almost immediately to a sizeable network of very sophisticated e-commerce companies. In other words, it was all about the local network. Ok, it was mostly about the local network. The farm-to-table restaurant scene and the local wineries were pretty compelling, too.