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The Rogue Valley's underemployed

The Rogue Valley's underemployed

Q&A:

'We need to merge technology-business development thinking with existing DEQ and land-use restrictions.'

Q: What does Southern Oregon need to do to attract and retain high-paying, clean environmental jobs?

I am a firm believer that a technology infrastructure, and all it entails, offers the greatest value to our communities' future. My take on clean environmental jobs focuses on the zero toxic technology niche. My research over the past two years, focusing on Josephine and Jackson counties, has demonstrated that we have a tremendous talent pool of under-utilized individuals. Statistically, these folks are referred to as underemployed. They are not doing what they are experienced and/or trained and and/or naturally gifted to do.

These numbers seem to run counter to our current perception of our available talent in residence, but I beg to differ and have proof. In effect, we need to attract the right people to our area to make a technology economic infrastructure a reality. Secondly, we need to get local people into jobs that fit their gifts and expertise.

Q: What do you know about the area's hidden talent ' the underemployed?

You have to look at the equation very much out of the box to get at the answer. For example, what percentage of students receiving their computer science degrees from Southern Oregon University, who choose to live in the Rogue Valley, do you think actually do computer-related work here? It turns out that 50 to 60 percent of the students with this expertise choose to reside here and of this percentage, over half or another 50 percent are unable get jobs in technology in the Rogue Valley. Multiply this by five or 10 years and the numbers are significant.

Further, ask any local technology company, like Project A in Ashland, how many resumes they get for a single job application. Does 65 to 100 surprise you? Do the same for employment and temporary agencies. Remember there are six or more technology categories these applications can apply to with little overlap. In other words these are distinct populations of people who are ready to work in the technology sector, which we do not currently support.

This economic and social condition can be treated and the result would be extremely positive and synergistic. My current estimate is that there are 500 to 750 underemployed technology workers between Medford and Ashland alone that I can document.

As mentioned, we have the SOU computer science output plus the business likes of Tyco Inc. leaving behind knowledgeable workers who are most likely now working in the service sector. I put the total at around 1,200-1,500 available, underemployed technology workers within the two counties.

Q: How do we provide well-paying jobs for the non-tech worker?

Rounding out the work force of a technology-oriented new business would necessitate 30 to 50 percent semi- and nontechnical staff as each new business becomes successful. Therefore, any new technology business would fulfill a significant need for a nontechnical staff.

Q: What about the environmental and land use issues facing new business development?

Obviously, we need to merge technology-business development thinking with existing DEQ and land-use restrictions. For the most part they have a very necessary purpose. Some would argue we are not hospitable to new business development. They have good reason and this supports furthering the technology development idea. That is the reason clean tech is a solid complement to the Rogue Valley.

Clean technology business that does not pollute in any form is the domain of software development. It includes Web-based technologies, interface development and high-level language development. It's the human interface, artistic side of technology. It's computer programmers as in software writers and Internet oriented digital artists. It's not nasty chip manufacturing that needs a place to dump solvent waste, for example. All you need is the people, shovel-ready land and existing buildings ' and in some cases not even that ' a great, market-ready idea, tons of constructive and intelligent effort, niche services support, and of course, the money. We have four out of six, and that isn't bad.

Professional background's career includes the wholesale-retail foods, health and wellness and the education industries. He has been a founding member in five start-up companies, three of which were technology oriented. He was a founding member of SyberVision Inc. and developed the role-modeling program with an initial focus on sports. SyberVision spawned a revolution in human learning and performance technologies and developed one of the first long-form infomercials.Hennessy is developing a personal mastery DVD product delivery system for use in sports centers, clubs and, later, schools. He holds a master's degree from Stanford University, where he also pursued doctoral studies. He has lectured throughout the country and developed and performed in numerous interactive theater educational workshops for children and teens. He lives in Medford with his wife and business partner, Mary.

J. Brian Hennessy