Jim Teece may run the Internet presence for hundreds of the Rogue Valley's companies, nonprofits, governments and schools, but he and his wife, Dana, still like to think of themselves as "a mom-and-pop operation."
Teece is a software developer and owner of Project A and Ashland Home Network. Equally notable, he has volunteered thousands of hours on boards of nonprofits here, helping them learn to surf the huge wave of technology brought by the Internet, starting in the mid-1990s.
Teece's vision over 20 years has been about developing E-Commerce Solutions, a system to handle all orders, data and transactions for businesses — hundreds of them in the Rogue Valley and many nationally and worldwide. His biggest client is Dr. Martens, a popular footwear maker.
Teece created a similar E-Government Solutions, an efficient and affordable interface with the public, which is online with Medford, Ashland, Jackson County and, soon, Talent. It's designed so city staffs can easily maintain it, he says.
The couple created Project A, a software development firm, in 1990 in Arizona, where Dena was finishing her graduate degree in management. She became chief financial officer. Seeking a small, college town in which to raise a family, they chose Oregon.
After scouring the state, they'd given up, he says, but stopped on the way out to have a beer by the creek in downtown Ashland. They decided to check out the town and were surprised to find it excelled on every point — university, freeway, airport, etc. — on their list.
The company thrived here in the '90s, growing to 50 employees, but scaled back to seven in the dot-com crash of 2000. It now has 14.
In 2008, they launched Ashland Home Net, which offers cable, phone and high-speed Internet. Soon came Art Authority, named for their main app, which brings 60,000 artworks to your iPad or iPhone for $10. It sells many other apps and is done in partnership with Alan Oppenheimer of Ashland.
"We made Art Authority for the iPhone, and when the iPad came out, it exploded. It's being used by many universities. It was chosen by Apple as one of seven apps that are changing education."
Teece for 15 years pitched the Internet and other cyber-stuff at the Jackson County Fair, attempting to lure kids into its magic and educate grown-ups that it will increasingly be vital to education and business success.
"I got to be a carny for a week every year," he says. "What's cool is the impact we had on kids. I just hired one from Rogue Community College. He came to my booth every summer and was fascinated with it all."
After working with Teece for six years, Fair Manager Dave Koellermeier notes, "he's an unbelievable volunteer and a caring, giving person, exceptionally gifted in business and the high-tech industry."
Teece has served on a plethora of boards, and he has volunteered the services of his companies to local organizations. They include the county fair, Southern Oregon University Foundation, Asante Foundation, Jefferson Public Radio Listeners Guild, Ashland Chamber of Commerce, and Ashland Independent Film Festival.
"He's an awesome community contributor," says AIFF Executive Director Anne Ashbey Pierotti. "We call him Captain Ashland. He puts his whole energy behind the community and making it work."
Teece created "Site in a Box," an easily customize-able website kit and, says Pierotti, it was donated and used as a basis for AIFF's ticket-ordering system. "I've experienced several festival systems, and this one is pretty amazing and intuitive for users."
Teece helped launch the pioneering Jeffnet ISP and served on the Ashland Economic Development Task Force and Ashland Fiber Network Steering Committee. He hosts Rogue Valley TV's "Tech Talk," interviewing regional experts on current and future technology.
Last year, he helped form Rogue Nexus, bringing together stakeholders in e-commerce, education, Web development and other areas, with the goal of using cyber-tech to perpetuate growth here.
The valley is not a big urban center, says Teece. But he travels a lot, and "when I tell people how special it is, they are amazed at what we have and what we've been able to do. People live where they really want to live. You only need two things, electricity and the Internet, to have the lifestyle you want. Southern Oregon is a really magical place."
Teece says he is seeking to "future-proof Oregon," meaning "we have to tip from rural to urban. Kids are leaving to find the future. It can be here, though," and a big key to it is getting big bandwidth to every school and community.
Teece calls his vision the "community operating system," noting that already the valley has 16 times more e-commerce than any community its size in the nation.
"Jim is very driven," says Rick Carter, his vice president for development and employee of 19 years. "Once he's involved in something, he puts his whole soul and heart in it."
Asked to describe himself, Teece, amazingly, says he's an introvert, a guy who never went to college, a guy who started on this road as a teen, being placed in charge of video games in a pizza parlor — and a guy who's not interested in "making a killing," though he could.
Despite his success, his mom still teases him, he laughs, saying he could have invented Facebook.
"At the end of the day, what I want is to feel good. If asked how I'm doing, I am able to say I'm making a difference and contributing back. I love organizational development. I love to see it go from an idea to a sustainable business or organization, whether it's a struggling mom-and-pop store or something bigger.
"We're a mom-and-pop operation. We created Ashland Home Net as a gateway to our community in the future, so people here can prosper."
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at email@example.com.