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Forbes dubs area as prime for business

The Medford-Ashland area has been ranked the second-best small place in the United States for business and career by Forbes business magazine.

Rankings are based on job and income growth and technological activities that foster future growth.

The list compared 94 communities with 1999 populations of less than 177,000. Medford and Ashland moved up from 22nd place last year. Greeley, Colo., about 50 miles north of Denver, was ranked first.

Rankings are based on eight separate categories of data compiled from government statistics, most through the end of 2000. Four categories that measure overall economic activities through wage and salary growth and job growth are given double weight.

Other categories include a variety of high-tech factors, according to Laurie Baker of Forbes' communication office.

"It seemed to put more value on the little micro-technology (developments) like the (Ashland) railroad district," said Rogue Valley business leader Bill Thorndike Jr., president of Medford Fabrication. "You didn't need to pour a lot of money into this area to start a small technology business."

Such listings may give the area a small advantage in attracting businesses, says Thorndike.

"It's kind of like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, or if United Way says your agency is a good agency," said Thorndike. "I think there are people who will then listen for another two or three seconds. There are probably 50 to 75 outfits that do site selection (for businesses) and are looking for things like this. You feel you have a better chance. The nice thing is it doesn't cost a whole bunch of money."

"(The ranking) tells a story that we keep telling, but now it provides some credibility," said Gordon Safley, executive director of Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc. (SOREDI). The agency mailed 3,000 copies of the article to businesses, most in California, to encourage relocation to Southern Oregon.

"There are certainly abundant career opportunities in the Southern Oregon area," said John Anderson, regional economist with the Oregon Employment Department in Medford. "There are going to be things in this area that we might have more of that somewhere else in the United State might not have. We are petty strong in theater and fine arts."

The Medford-Ashland area is the only Oregon location on the list. Other West Coast areas and their rankings are: Yuba City, Calif., 10th; Bellingham, Wash., 14th; Yolo, Calif., 15th; and Redding, Calif., 24th. Complete rankings are available at Forbes.com.

Reach Ashland bureau reporter Tony Boom at 482-4651, or e-mail