EUGENE, Ore. — The manufacturing sector is booming in Oregon. It’s now the third fastest growing state economy in the U.S.
Its gross domestic product grew 3.9 percent last year, and companies in Eugene are seeing the results.
The boom in Oregon has everything to do with computers and electronics with Intel leading the way in Portland. But in Eugene, the driving force is focusing on sustainable manufacturing, an industry that’s gaining momentum around the world. That industry is putting a new spin on an old craft–welding.
“Whether it’s a commodity like a water bottle, or a piece of paper, cardboard, or newspaper, or whether we’re capturing the energy embedded in those waste materials, we find that that’s in demand really all over the world,” said Steve Miller, Bulk Handling Systems CEO.
Miller says his sustainable manufacturing company has seen big growth over the last several years.
“Landfills are filling up. New ones aren’t getting built, and so we found that the things that we do increasingly applied to certain markets,” Miller said.
“A lot of the growth is happening in more sustainable clusters like natural foods, and foods local foods and in recycling industries that support the recycling industry like Bulk Handling Systems,” said Dave Hauser, Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce President.
About 15 years ago, manufacturing only accounted for about 9 percent of Oregon’s economy. Now it’s nearly 40 percent. Hauser says the state is finally seeing the light after the recession.
“It caught I think some folks in the country by surprise that Oregon is a manufacturing powerhouse,” Hauser said.
However, he says the state still has some work to do.
“Production is increasing. We’re not seeing the same kind of gain in employment and in personal income growth,” Hauser said.
Hauser says that’s because companies are becoming more efficient and don’t necessarily need a live person to do the job. Employees say they’re not feeling the pinch at Bulk Handing Systems, but they have experienced it at other places.
“The owner would always say it doesn’t get sick, it doesn’t take a day off, it doesn’t take vacation,” said employee Tod Garcia.
Miller also mentioned that unfortunately some companies have to keep up with the demand by using machines and that people looking for jobs and can’t find one in the manufacturing sector may need to shift their focus.