Silicon Shire: 'Eugene is a real hub for tech companies'

EUGENE, Ore. - California has the Silicon Valley. The Portland area is called the Silicon Forest.

Now Eugene's own silicon moniker is quietly gaining traction.

"Five years from now I see it being twice as big as it is now, maybe more," said Cale Bruckner of Concentric Sky.

Bruckner started the Silicon Shire last summer as an online directory of local companies.

The list is up to 150, raising the profile of local software, bio-tech and video game firms.

Bruckner said these companies have jobs waiting to be filled: tech firms face a local labor shortage because skilled college graduates leave the area in search of work.

"I was hearing from students at the university that they didn't think there were opportunities in town for them," Bruckner said.

Bruckner wants to slow this brain drain with closer networking with the University of Oregon, Oregon State and Lane Community College computer science departments.

An associate professor at the UO said he's learning about companies he's never heard of, like 4medica.

"Fifty one to 100 people - how did I not know they existed?" said Michal Young with the UO computer science department. "So now I do. Now we have ways of making some of those contacts."

The problem for local tech firms is not downsizing: it's being unable to fill all their job openings.

When local talent can't be found, the work gets outsourced. Firms would prefer to hire locally. That workforce could number 4,000 in Lane County in an industry with statewide average wages topping $86,000 per a year.

"To have that kind of movement where people can be more aware that Eugene is a real hub for tech companies only benefits us as we're growing," said Marci Hansen, marketing officer with Sheer ID.

Senator Ron Wyden met with software companies last summer in Eugene, discovering they had 100 job openings - but not enough applicants.

Hansen said future college grads should pay attention. She has two jobs to fill.

"Silicon Shire is a really good first step to try to reach those needs," she said.

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