In a recent editorial, we wrote about plans to develop a South Willamette Valley Technology Business Accelerator for the mid-valley.
In particular, we opined about how important it is for officials from Albany and Linn County to be at the table during the discussions that will shape this effort, which essentially aims to make it easier to spin off businesses using research performed at the state’s universities.
Plans for the accelerator were approved by the Legislature during the 2013 session, along with $3.75 million in funding.
The idea is to foster collaboration between Oregon State University and the University of Oregon to streamline the process by which university research can be commercialized into new businesses.
But there’s more: The idea also is to build collaboration between the communities near those universities – and that’s where Albany and Linn County deserve a place at the table.
We feared that Eugene and Corvallis would tend to dominate the conversation – in part because the next big step in this process, a meeting to create a governing structure and business plan for the effort, will be convened by the mayors of those two cities.
But in a recent meeting with the Democrat-Herald’s editorial board, Albany City Manager Wes Hare assured us that Albany already has a place at the table and that Albany officials have been following this effort from the start.
That makes good sense for Albany and for Linn County.
Done properly, the effort could make it easier for entrepreneurs to start up companies that will hire mid-valley residents and pay them good salaries.
There’s a perception in the mid-valley that the sort of high-tech jobs that can be spun off from university research naturally will tend to congregate in Corvallis, but the reality is that Linn County has a number of high-tech businesses already up and running.
And some of Albany’s longest-running businesses have embraced high tech: For evidence, look no further than Oregon Freeze Dry’s venture with EnerG2, a Seattle company that is using technology pioneered at the University of Washington.
Organizers of the collaboration also would be wise to reach out to Linn-Benton Community College as they move forward. Some of LBCC’s recent initiatives – for example, its plans to build its plans to create an alternative fuels-training center in Lebanon to train mechanics to work on the next generation of vehicles – would seem to be a good fit for this effort.
Much of the early action in this effort likely will focus on finding suitable facilities that OSU and the University of Oregon can use to incubate new businesses.
But that’s just a start. To really reach its potential, the project needs to cast its net as widely as possible, and embrace the notion of collaboration – not just between the universities, but also between all the communities in the mid-valley. It’s just a reflection of a new reality: Our new economy doesn’t stop at the county line. (mm)