Experts: Region's prospects look good

Economy's growing, but e-commerce raises security issues, conference attendees are told
Aaron Onines works on an S-64 Air-Crane in the hangar bay of Erickson Air-Crane in Central Point. The manufacturing company has its headquarters in Portland, but the company's plant remains in Central Point, making it one of the mainstays of the local economy.

On a day when multitudes of statistics flew off the tongue and flashed on the screen, one of the leading lights of Rogue Valley electronic commerce suggested it's no time to stand still.

"I host a lot of clients who build a lot of websites for companies all over the world, so I can tell you our numbers, and I think we (in Southern Oregon) are within the $500 million to $1 billion in e-commerce business already," said Jim Teece, owner of Project A in Ashland. "We need to continue that."

Teece told the crowd gathered at the Inn at the Commons Thursday for the Southern Oregon Business Conference that the region needs to do what it takes to "future-proof ourselves."

He gave the region an Electricity and the Internet Report Card: A's for bandwidth, hosting and programming, C's for marketing, security, redundancy and government.

A lot of firms are sending their marketing work out of the area, he said. When it comes to security, the FBI suggests that everyone will get hit by hackers along the lines of Target's recent breach.

"Are we ready for that?" he asked.

"If you look at the economists' information and what they are presenting here, it's scary stuff," Teece said. "Because it's different than when I moved here. A lot of it is because of what we built with the technology infrastructure."

He said younger families move to where the opportunity exists — where there is bandwidth, where there is education.

The largest crowd in the 11-year history of the event heard a generally upbeat report on economic factors that have shaped a slow rebound from the Great Recession.

Josh Lehner, an economist from the state Office of Economic Analysis, said between Portland and Sacramento, only a couple of counties have outperformed Jackson County in the past 10 years.

"Once you're close to Sacramento, that's where you begin to find ones with more growth," he said.

Norm Kester, the founder of Quantum Innovations, a company whose products include lens coating to protect eye strain resulting from staring at computer screens, developed a global market before finding its first Oregon customer.

"It took us eight years to find a customer in Oregon," Kester said. "Now we have three."

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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