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Big business goes small-town

Marketplace Staff Oct 16, 2006

Big business goes small-town

Marketplace Staff Oct 16, 2006


LISA NAPOLI: If you can’t get enough TV news, you’ll be happy with an announcement from Yahoo that’s expected today. It’s going to start posting clips from 16 CBS news stations online. It’s all part of Yahoo’s attempt to get into video, after archrival Google snapped up homespun video site YouTube last week. Now, all of Google’s deals are not billion dollar babies. Take the case of its entry into a small town in eastern Oregon. David Welch explains.

DAVID WELCH: The city of The Dalles, Oregon landed one really big fish. That fish is named Google.

It’s the result of years of political maneuvering and hard work by the town and will eventually result in up to 100 high-paying jobs for this town of about 12,000.

Andrea Klass is the director if the Port of the Dalles. She says that Google was instantly attracted by the town’s shovel-ready industrial site. In fact, even before Google came calling, Klass says the town was ready for any big company to start building.

ANDREA KLASS:“We had land that was available, power that was available and a fiber optic network that was available.”

And those high tech cables certainly didn’t hurt the town’s chances of attracting Google.

Rob Van Cleave is mayor of The Dalles. He says the town’s new fiber optic network makes it one of the top 10 most wired hamlets in the country. That’s an important factor for a search engine like Google to consider.

But the Mayor points out that high tech infrastructure didn’t seal the deal for The Dalles. He says the real closer was Mother Nature.

MAYOR ROB VAN CLEAVE:“I remember at one meal we were sitting down and I said ‘you know, we have a growing wine industry, we have an amphitheater in the Gorge, we have mountain climbing, windsurfing, bike riding. You know, we’re right next to a national scenic area, but you’re not here to talk about that, you want to talk business.’ And they said ‘no, that’s exactly what we want to hear. Our employees need to live here and their families need to live here.”

Google isn’t alone when it comes to this corporate shift to rural America. Companies like Yahoo and Toyota have also chosen small towns for their new production facilities. It’s a trend that may be picking up speed in the business world.

Dr. Howard Feldman is the Associate Dean at University of Portland’s School of Business. He says companies stand to save a lot of money by relocating to rural towns. Rising real estate costs along with factors like traffic, pollution and the high cost of living can make it difficult to do business in urban areas.

HOWARD FELDMAN:“But if they can find places like in rural locations in Arkansas, in North Carolina, in other states, costs are considerably less and it’s a viable option for some of these organizations.”

And that potential for savings is attracting big companies to little towns. Back in The Dalles, Mayor Van Cleave says Google has been working hard to fit in with the town’s existing culture.

But when a big company like Google shows up, he understands that certain things change.

VAN CLEAVE:“I saw a Lamborghini parked at an intersection with a Ford F150 pickup. You know they looked well together. Our future is bright and Google’s part of that.

And the mayor hopes that Google won’t be the only big company playing a part in that future.

In The Dalles, Oregon I’m David Welch for Marketplace.

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