Looking back at building a future

Southern Oregon Business Conference will focus on major local projects that came to fruition
The Northgate Center in north Medford, shown here under construction in 2012, is among the projects that were eventually built after being delayed by the Great Recession.

Much of the present and recent construction in the Rogue Valley was on the drawing board seven years ago. It just took a while to come to fruition.

The 11th Southern Oregon Business Conference, scheduled for Jan. 30 at the Inn at The Commons, will give attendees a chance to look back and catch a glimpse into the future.

Southern Oregon Business Conference

Date: Thursday, Jan. 30

Registration: 1:30 p.m.

Conference program: 2-5:30 p.m.

Where: The Inn at the Commons, 200 N. Riverside Ave., Medford

Cost: $40 for SOREDI members, $50 for nonmembers

"Going back to 2007, we showed artists' conceptions of four major projects, and all of them were placed on hold," said Alex Pawlowski, a former banker now on the staff at Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc., and a driving force behind the annual event.

The proposed Lithia Motors headquarters building, downtown Medford Higher Education Center and Northgate Center all were on the cusp of going up, but were delayed in the months that followed.

"Folks here know what a real tough time it was like during the Great Recession," Pawlowski said. "Since then, three of the four have been completed."

The fourth was Paradise Ranch, a 300-acre golf community across Monument Drive from North Valley High School outside Merlin, which slipped back into its four-decade-long pattern of being tantalizingly close to reality before financial failure beset the latest developer.

"Three out of four isn't bad; I'll take it," Pawlowski said.

The record shows nearly $250 million worth of capital improvements in Jackson and Josephine counties since 2012, he said. Downtown Medford's One West Main business office complex and the Jackson County health center projects weren't part of the Class of 2007, but are boosting the surrounding economy

"Our two presenters will show economic data that Medford and Bend lead all Oregon economics in robust recoveries," Pawlowski said. "Economists say construction is one of the leading components to prognosticate the economic future — especially in communities that aren't in the most metropolitan areas of the state, such as Eugene, Salem and Portland. It's a good sign that construction is going on and businesses are willing to invest that kind of money into their corporate futures."

Tim Duy, an economics professor who compiles state and local economic indexes, is the keynote speaker for the conference. He will be joined by Josh Lehner from the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis

A panel of business leaders will discuss economic trends. They are: Norm Kester, Quantum Innovations, manufacturing; Jim Teece, Project A, e-commerce technology; Tom Dobry, Lithia Motors, e-commerce retail; Cindy Mayo, Providence Hospital, health care; and Adam Cuppy, Craterian Theater, arts and entertainment.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness, friend him on Facebook and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.

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