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Our View: Fostering e-success

There’s something in the air. Ashland’s a special place. You could Google it.

Google itself came to Ashland on Monday to tell us so. For the second year in a row, Ashland’s high level of Internet engagement earned it recognition as an “eCity,” the digital capital of Oregon.

Ashland-based enterprises have a disproportionately high likelihood of showing up in Google’s AdWords advertisements that accompany search results. And local businesses are very good at using all the Internet tools. That’s important because an Internet presence makes businesses twice as likely to grow, which means more well-paying jobs.

Ashland Mayor John Stromberg credits Ashland’s 1990s move to establish its own fiber optic network with giving Ashland a jump on attracting and supporting Internet-based businesses. “That’s why we’re here today,” he said at Monday’s celebration.

In his remarks, Sen. Ron Wyden emphasized the importance of preserving net neutrality — “today, we can go where we want, everybody is treated equally” — and, he told the Tidings afterwards, countering intrusive “NSA overreach” into web-users’ privacy. Both, Wyden said, are crucial to preserving “the ability of small businesses to create more good-paying jobs.”

“We are developing a wonderfully supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Jim Teece, CEO of Ashland’s Project A, said in a tweet by the Southern Oregon Edge this week. The Edge, supported by a partnership of area governments and industry, is a good example of the cooperative work that can be so effective in fostering that economic ecosystem.

You can see the hundreds of thousands of people who flock to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival every year. You can’t see the hundreds of thousands flocking to websites hosted by Ashland-based businesses, nonprofit organizations, academic institutions and government. But the cyber-visitors, too, contribute to the local economy and culture.

There is something in the air. It’s electric, it’s exciting and summed up by Ashland being named an eCity.