One of the key goals of the Corvallis Economic Development Commission has been to make it easier for startups built on research at Oregon State University to get up and running.
Wednesday night at the Linus Pauling Science Center at OSU the commission and an audience of about 40 people heard three success stories in that area.
Representatives from NuScale, which designs small-scale nuclear reactors; Inpria, which is working on chemical components for semiconductors; and solar-panel maker Inspired Light, discussed startup hangups and challenges.
“We’re here because the people and technology were here,” said Andrew Grenville, CEO of Inpria, which hopes to start providing its components to companies such as Intel by 2015.
“We grew out of the university. It’s natural for us to be here.”
Frank Cloutier, a former Hewlett-Packard employee who helped develop the inkjet printer, noted that downsizing at HP has led to a lot of excellent employees becoming available.
“The quality of the talent pool and the breadth of the talent pool are really impressive here,” said Cloutier, who has been working on his solar panels project for two years.
“There is a lot of maturity in the talent pool plus some young and energetic people that are just amazing.”
Kent Welter, safety manager at NuScale, was the second employee hired by the company, which started in an old bank building near the McDonald’s in downtown Corvallis.
Welter, an OSU graduate, was attracted to the company because of the university’s top 10 nuclear engineering program, the region’s talent pool, and because he wanted to return to Corvallis.
Welter also could not resist a playful joke concerning another of Oregon rising’s industries: “The No. 1 reason we located here was craft beer!”
All three panelists noted that Corvallis faces challenges from communities such as Boston and Silicon Valley in recruiting and retaining talent and that housing prices and Oregon’s state income tax also factor into the equation.
“There is a critical mass of talent in the Bay Area,” said Grenville. “All you have to do is go to a coffee store, and it’s there.”
A second panel, moderated by Benton County Commissioner Jay Dixon, discussed what success in economic development might look like in five years.
“At the end of the day, it’s about job creation,” said Ron Adams, OSU executive associate vice president for research, “with measurements based on customer revenue and private investment.”
Two other panelists, Corvallis Mayor Julie Manning and Sean Stevens, regional representative for Business Oregon, noted that preserving Corvallis’ quality of life also was a key component.
Adams joined the panel because state Sen. Betsy Close (legislative matters) and state Rep. Sara Gelser (family emergency) had to bow out.
The commission welcomed a new member Wednesday. Hewlett-Packard vice president Tim Weber succeeded HP’s Sam Angelos, who retired from the company.