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Millennium looks to Portland

Firm hopes strong local workforce will attract business from the north

WHITE CITY ­ Millennium Technology Services hopes the Rogue Valleycan benefit from a tight job market in Portland.

We think we have a competitive advantage with a more stable workforceand low overhead, said David Hollingsworth, chief executive. The companycontracts to manufacture products for other companies.

Millenium, which assembles a variety of electronic devices, is seekingmore contracts in the Portland metropolitan area, where the jobless rateis under 5 percent.

There's more work there than there are qualified workers; the company'sstrategy is to bring some of that work to the Rogue Valley, where there'sa strong available workforce.

We've added a new sales manager in the Portland area, Hollingsworthsaid. That area has been good for us in the past. We'll be makinga big push there (for contract assembly projects), then in Seattle and Boise.

The company was founded as Beaver Lec-Tronix in California in 1978 byWayne and Barbara Tarris. They brought it to White City in 1982. It wasacquired and renamed last year by Rocky Road Corp. of Austin, Texas.

Millennium has 150 employees and annual sales of about $9.5 million,said Hollingsworth, who succeeded Barbara Conway as chief executive lastspring.

We've had a couple of million-dollar months, he said. Sincewe've become Millennium, we've been working to do as much as we can forour existing customers. Next we'll be seeking new customers.

The company assembles such things as bar code readers, moisture detectorsand headphones that enable health club customers to tune into their favoritestation from a bank of TVs.

The company had once specialized in circuit board assembly, but has diversifiedinto other products over the years. It is endeavoring to do more than assembleparts for one portion of a product; instead, the company hopes to take oncomplete assembly projects and produce finished products, as well as domore purchasing and inventory control, Hollingsworth said.

In 1993, the company finished a 20,000-square-foot addition to its plantat 1050 Antelope Road that nearly doubles its manufacturing area.

Hollingsworth said the plant is operating one shift at about half itscapacity, with hopes to generate more business.

Sales drives everything, said Jim Kendall, chief operatingofficer for the parent company. Rocky Road has also acquired a small assemblyplant in Sweet Home and has signed a letter of intent to add another yet-unnamedOregon company.

Rocky Road is a holding company that benefits from economies ofscale, plus legal, information systems, marketing, accounting and finance,Kendall said. MTS (Millennium) is our Oregon hub.

Hollingsworth, raised in Ashland, has been with the company as marketingmanager in the Beaver Lec-Tronix days and previously owned the Holly Group,a manufacturers' representative.

We've tried to get the employees on the line more involved andempowered, he said. We want managers to take more responsibilityand continue to improve our processes. We want to work smarter.

He said the company also wants to get more involved in the communityand in the industry.

We've joined the Oregon Quality Initiative (a professional association)and the Electronics Manufacturers Association, he said. We'relooking at what's a good fit for us.

A rack of Millennium Technology Systems circuit boards sits beside Ruth Barra of Medford, as she works at the White City plant. - Photo by Jim Craven</P