One of the Rogue Valley's largest tech employers is moving its headquarters to Jackson County.
Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions, which manufactures cleanroom particle monitors for a global market, announced Monday it will relocate its front office to Medford from Fremont, California, shifting more than two dozen executive and management jobs.
The announcement was made at the Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions' Connect 2017 conference at Seven Feathers Casino in Canyonville.
Founder Tae Yun Kim said she was cautioned by family, friends and staff when she said she was considering a move to Oregon.
"They wondered why Dr. Kim would want to leave the heart of high technology for Oregon," she wrote in a newsletter. "In Oregon, there are transportation challenges, Internet challenges and even cell phone communication challenges."
But Mark VonHolle, Lighthouse Worldwide Solution's marketing manager, said positive factors outweighed those concerns.
"Labor is more cost-effective here," he said. "Workman's compensation is more reasonable, utilities and taxation are more competitive and certainly housing prices are far more competitive."
Kim said the company's research and development teams and its Advanced Technology Group are working on new products that will expand Lighthouse Worldwide's market reach.
"Through our expertise in monitoring controlled environments and through our monitoring product lines, we can provide the necessary knowledge, experience and successful track record to monitoring in agriculture," she wrote.
Lighthouse Worldwide opened a manufacturing site on Disk Drive in west Medford 15 years ago. The company presently employs 73 in Southern Oregon at three sites in Medford and Grants Pass.
"We've shoehorned everything we can, and we're bursting at the seams," said VonHolle.
It's not clear exactly when Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions pulled the trigger on its northward migration, but the firm's executives appeared on the verge as early 2015. Kim and her leadership team met with nearly 75 politicians and business and community leaders to a rally at the RCC/SOU Higher Education Center in downtown Medford, complete with multimedia and martial arts demonstrations. A video crew detailed the event for consumption in Korea.
Jackson County Commissioner Colleen Roberts met with Kim when company executives were exploring the move two years ago.
"I think they've put a lot of thought and consideration into their move here," Roberts said. "Anytime a headquarters comes here, it means jobs and attention to Medford and the Rogue Valley; it's a big benefit. Having her company come up from Silicon Valley is big."
Medford Mayor Gary Wheeler said the transition helps fill payroll gaps left when other companies have departed.
"We are no longer a smoke-stack-industry valley," Wheeler said. "So we're looking at good clean industry that can come in and provide good wages and good quality work for everybody. The more we can make it easier for people to come in, give them the space to work, and give them perks or benefits if they are available. We've got our enterprise zones, our e-commerce, all those things in place."
VonHolle, former chairman of the Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc. board, has long encouraged tech growth in the region.
"The average annual wage for electronic instrument manufacturing sector jobs in the valley is about $65,000, which is nearly double the median wage average in Jackson and Josephine counties," VonHolle said. "We're not just relocating the company headquarters, we're expanding into new markets. Historically, Lighthouse's model has been business to business. But now we're developing consumer products, which will be huge for our company."
Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions has narrowed its headquarters search to three local sites, VonHolle said.
"We're still negotiating and doing our due diligence," he said. "We'll see where the dust settles."
The firm will keep some of its sales and engineering staff in the Bay Area, he said.
In a video message that was to be played at Monday's event, Gov. Kate Brown said the move demonstrates the company's commitment to Southern Oregon, and is a vote of confidence for the whole state.
— Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.