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Profiling business in our region

Oregon Business Magazine has published a slice of insight into Southern Oregon's economy heading into the new year.

A 16-page pull-out section, written by Myrtle Creek freelance writer Megan Monson in January's issue, highlights the region's diversified post-wood-products economy.

Today, Southern Oregon is poised on the brink of great economic success, and the signs are everywhere, Monson wrote. The region is becoming known as a hotbed of entrepreneurship, spurred in part by a new class of residents: affluent young retirees who move to the area and, bored with retirement, start new businesses.

She captured attitudes of entrepreneurs and the remarketing of the land into recreational destination spots. The article noted the expansion of medical services that anticipate an aging population and higher-education institutions preparing to fill burgeoning health care industry roles.

Monson said Thursday she had anticipated finding Southern Oregon's 21st century economy still on the drawing board. Instead she observed next-generation industries fully operational.

— I did not expect to find as much hope and progress as I did, Monson said. When you live there you absorb all the bad stuff and negativity, but what we found in places we visited was hope for the region and a real sense of renewal. I expected some economic development advances and a lot of plans. I hadn't expected that much had been done or the rosy outlook and a sense that we'd arrived at the future.

The staff at Oregon Business Magazine also was surprised to find that much of Southern Oregon considers California its primary trade market and is relatively indifferent to the Portland market.

In all the areas we went to they made a point about doing business with California, Monson said. There is a real geographical advantage being halfway between the Seattle and San Francisco markets. That's a unique advantage of the region.

Monson was assigned the story in October and met with civic leaders in Klamath Falls, Medford, Grants Pass and Roseburg during a series of breakfast meetings.

She was struck by the degree of cooperation between public agencies and the private sector.

They're actually working together without the usual complications, Monson said. People in rural areas have to make things work and so they do. They've had to do innovative things and it's just incredible what they've done.

Leigh Johnson, director of government relations for Harry & David Holdings Inc., said OBM accurately represented the transition from the formerly timber-dominated culture.

It matches up pretty well, said Johnson, a former state representative and congressional aide. It identifies some of the very good and what some consider not so good things about the area ' traffic and congestion and so forth.

It paints a glowing picture of our schools, location and health care ' which is some of the best in the state and probably the West Coast. There are some very innovative people creating jobs, but we still need to create a more talented employment base.

The 25-year-old magazine with a circulation of 20,000 is best known for its annual lists of the best companies to work for in Oregon, public companies, Oregon leaders, private companies and top-paid CEOs. It also routinely reports on trends and newsmakers.

Publisher Gillian Floren said Oregon Business Magazine launched a series of regional supplements a few months back with Central Oregon and will continue later in 2006 with a look at the coastal economy.

Yet there is hint, in some quarters, that the magazine sees this region as far removed from the mainstream Oregon economy.

Any time Southern Oregon gets recognized for the good things happening here I'm pleased, said Brad Hicks, chief executive officer of the Chamber of Medford / Jackson County. However I continue to be disappointed by the way Oregon Business Magazine continues to portray Southern Oregon as Portland's country cousin.

He said the cover photo of a remote-looking vineyard extends that image.

When you consider our economy has outpaced most other local economies in the state for some time, it's a clear indicator that some amazing things are happening here. I'd like to see the portrayal of the business community (simply) keep up with the times.

Profiling business in our region"business@mailtribune.com.

Oregon Business Magazine has published a supplement on Southern Oregon?s economy in January?s issue.