Science campus, high tech touted at Eugene Economic Summit; skilled labor in high demand

The Greater Eugene Chamber of Commerce sponsored the 2017 Eugene Economic Summit

EUGENE, Ore. - Hundreds of people packed the 2017 Eugene Economic Summit on Thursday.

The summit looked at the future of high tech, natural foods, wood products and many other sectors of the local economy.

The lead off topic was the University of Oregon's Knight science campus, the $1 billion initiative set to open by 2020.

"It's a platform to connect the brightest minds from around the world, to connect students to opportunity," said Chris Edwards, the vice president of strategic initiatives at Oregon. "It's a platform to connect investors to ideas and problems to solutions."

Edwards said construction on phase 1 of the science campus will begin in February.

Once complete, the science center will support 750 ongoing jobs on campus with a projected annual boost to the economy of $79 million.

High Tech Sector

There are now 443 high tech companies in the greater Eugene area, with employment projected to grow 28 percent over the next decade.

"This makes tech the fastest growing and highest paying sector in greater Eugene," said Matt Sayre, director of the Technology Association of Oregon.

Skilled Labor Shortage

Industry watchers high tech could add 2,000 new jobs in 10 years - and that may present a problem: a shortage of skilled labor. There are 200 job openings now at Eugene companies, and they can't get enough people.

That isn't just an issue for technology companies.

Avril Watt, the human resources director for Johnson Crushers Interantional, said they've managed to hire 75 people in the past year - but it's been tough to recruit workers.

"We've had to get really creative and also make sure that we're really competitive right there to do that," Watt said.

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