*NEWS*LIFE AFTER HP………

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*NEWS*LIFE AFTER HP………

 user 2006-01-03 at 12:14:00 pm Views: 70
  • #13611

    Life after HP
    An
    aerial view shows the Hewlett-Packard campus along the Willamette
    River. In the last year, HP has cut more than 700 jobs from its
    Corvallis location.
    Corvallis looks to replace jobs shed by shrinking tech giant
    The
    news hit like a hammer blow: Hewlett-Packard announced in May that it
    was cutting 570 jobs at its Corvallis campus through a voluntary
    severance program.
    Even factoring in the positive impact of HP’s
    generous severance payments, an Oregon State University economist
    calculated the loss to the mid-valley economy at $112 million in gross
    sales.
    By year’s end the news was even worse: At least another 139 jobs at HP had been lost, raising the toll above 700.
    These
    were some of the best jobs around, too, with high salaries and good
    benefits. As the OSU economist, Bruce Sorte, put it: “When you take
    away a job like you have at Hewlett-Packard, your economy actually
    contracts.”
    What can Corvallis do to replace the loss of 700-plus top-quality jobs?
    That
    question, says Mysty Rusk, executive director of the Corvallis-Benton
    County Economic Development Partnership, “is the one I lose sleep over.
    … I think it’s in the forefront of everybody’s mind.”
    The good
    news is that Rusk and dozens of other leaders in government, academia
    and business – including HP – are working to do something about it.
    The
    Economic Vitality Partnership, a coalition of 14 local business
    interest groups, has launched a campaign dubbed Prosperity That
    Fits.Through a survey of community members, a poll of randomly selected
    businesses and a series of public forums facilitated by a professional
    consulting firm, the group plans to create a business action plan to
    guide economic development efforts in Corvallis and Benton County.
    By
    building lots of public input into the process, the EVP hopes to
    short-circuit the public opposition that has dogged so many development
    proposals and repackage Corvallis as a community that is open for
    business – at least, for business that fits.
    A similar process led by the Downtown Corvallis Association is under way to revitalize the city’s commercial core.
    On
    the industrial side, veteran businesswoman Jean Mater conducted a
    survey last year to identify the challenges and opportunities facing
    local manufacturers.
    Oregon State University has ratcheted up its
    technology transfer efforts. In addition to increasing licensing income
    for the university, the aim is to spin off local companies based on OSU
    research – companies with the potential to generate local jobs.
    OSU’s
    Austin Entrepreneurship Program, housed in the renovated Weatherford
    Hall, is also seen as a potential job engine. The recently completed
    Kelley Engineering Center, billed as “a home for innovation,”
    reinforces the message that research and commerce should go hand in
    hand, as does the university’s plan to build a research park at the old
    OSU poultry farm.
    Another university-based effort, the Oregon
    Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute, is starting to hit its
    stride. Housed in rent-free space donated by Hewlett-Packard in
    Building 11 of the Corvallis campus, ONAMI pairs academic and corporate
    researchers with scientists from the Department of Energy’s Pacific
    Northwest National Laboratory.
    “We’ve completed our lab in building 11,” said Skip Rung, ONAMI’s director. “PNNL has completed their lab.”
    Meanwhile,
    in addition to supporting the work of the Economic Vitality
    Partnership, the Economic Development Partnership continues to pursue
    its own efforts to assist local businesses and attract new ones.
    There
    are a handful of large companies looking at Corvallis as a potential
    location, Rusk said, including a biofuel producer, a manufacturer of
    light equipment and a biotech firm. There’s no way to know at this
    point whether any of them will proceed further, but if they all did,
    Rusk said, “it could be as many as 500 jobs over the next three years.”
    Most
    of her energies, Rusk said, are focused on retention – helping
    companies that are already here succeed. And those efforts are bearing
    some fruit.
    ATS Oregon, a maker of factory automation equipment,
    credited the EDP, the Chamber of Commerce and Linn-Benton Community
    College with helping to locate and train some skilled technicians the
    company was having a tough time finding. General manager Jim Sheldon
    said recently the assistance was crucial in helping ATS land a $24
    million contract with a big biotech company, a contract he expected to
    lead to at least 20 more hires.
    Perhaps the most intriguing
    job-creation initiative to come along in years also comes from the EDP.
    Chaired by Rung, its aim is to recruit microtechnology companies from
    Seattle, Silicon Valley and Southern California.
    “That’s the
    expertise we see in Corvallis,” said Rung, a former HP research and
    development manager who notes that the company’s Corvallis campus is
    the birthplace of inkjet printing technology and boasts the world’s
    most advanced microtech facilities.
    All of those highly skilled
    engineers who left the company this year form an attractive labor pool
    for other firms working in the field.
    Other Corvallis companies
    engaged in microtech activities include ATS, Korvis Automation, ImTech,
    Tripod Data Systems and numerous small shops and consulting firms. And
    of course, Rung adds, there’s ONAMI.
    “We think we’re an attractive
    destination for microtechnology companies, particularly some in the San
    Francisco Bay Area who know they have to go somewhere cheaper,” Rung
    said.
    High-tech entrepreneur Joe LaChapelle, who serves on the recruiting team’s advisory board, is not so sure.
    “There
    are a lot of good places to do high-tech business,” he points out. “You
    could argue that we’re cheaper than the Bay Area, but that gap is
    closing.”
    LaChapelle is an OSU grad who spent time working in the
    Bay Area before returning to Corvallis a few years ago and teaming up
    with two Oregon partners to launch Deep Photonics, a manufacturer of
    ultraviolet lasers. He thinks his small company is a likelier model for
    economic recovery: a homegrown startup that expands gradually over time.
    “The
    kind of jobs we want, in Corvallis and Benton County in particular, are
    going to be generated by us hitting a lot of base hits here,”
    LaChapelle said.
    But Rung, Rusk and others believe Corvallis may
    have an ace in the hole when it comes to attracting outside microtech
    firms, and it comes from a somewhat surprising source: Hewlett-Packard.
    One
    intriguing byproduct of years of downsizing at HP’s Corvallis campus is
    space, and lots of it. Although HP officials could not be reached to
    confirm it, there’s a growing buzz around town that the global
    high-tech giant might be willing to lease some of that space to outside
    companies.
    “It’s a legitimate possibility,” said Rung, who thinks HP
    might even consider leasing out parts of its state-of-the-art lab
    facilities in addition to straight office space.
    “Obviously, they would be very selective about who they make that space available to,” he said.
    But he also noted that HP’s local real estate manager, Steve Love, has a seat on the microtech recruiting team’s advisory board.
    In
    the end, Hewlett-Packard – the company whose deep job cuts have sparked
    a recruiting scramble – could wind up being the city’s best recruiting
    tool.
    “They will be part of the effort,” Rung said, “and they support the effort.”