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Wyden confirms it: U.S. Cellular plant on its way

A United States Cellular service center with 400 jobs will be openedin Medford, according to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden.

I just got off the phone with Don Nelson, the head of U.S. Cellular,and he says it's a go. It's Medford, Wyden said in a telephone interviewFriday.

The company wants the site for a telecommunications service center thatwill employ 400 people, he said. It will be one of the four largest privateemployers in Jackson County, along with Bear Creek Corp., Boise Cascadeand Erickson Air Crane.

This facility will handle service calls through much of the west,he said. From the beginning, we could see this could give us a realhub in the new telecommunications economy.

The senator said Nelson, president and chief executive of U.S. Cellular,will formally announce the decision.

The company's plans were high-centered on the issue of Oregon taxingfederal telecommunications licenses. Legislation addressing the specificissue in the Oregon Legislature stalled in committee and a broader act coveringall utilities was sent to the governor.

Earlier this week, Gov. John Kitzhaber said he didn't know if he willveto it because he isn't sure of all the impacts.

Wyden said that's no longer the issue.

The governor has said he'll propose an administrative solutionat the state level, the senator said. In my opinion, an Oregontax on a federal license is unfair and possibly unconstitutional. It sendsthe wrong signal to the industry.

Taxation of federal licenses will be addressed in hearings this fallin the Senate Telecommunications Subcommittee, of which Wyden is a member.

The tax would not have applied to the service facility at all, said JoshKarden, Wyden's chief of staff.

They opposed the tax as a philosophical issue, he said. Thecompany was subject to a similar tax in West Virginia and they moved outof that state.

Wyden praised the efforts of Southern Oregon economic development andcommunity leaders and state officials. They were competing with Tacoma,Wash., and California locations, including Redding.

The plant will be built near Rogue Valley International-Medford Airportin a recently designated enterprise zone, which will exempt the facilityfrom property tax for at least three years. Karden said the groundbreakingmay be planned as soon as August.

Wyden said he's been working with the other Oregon advocates to makea case for Southern Oregon's business climate.

Jeff Nelson, director of communications for the Cellular TelecommunicationsIndustry Association, affirmed the effort of Wyden, for whom he previouslyworked as press secretary.

Sen. Wyden has done a tremendous job in making such companies locatingnew facilities understand the economic benefits of Southern Oregon,he said.