Oregon State, tech firms drive Benton County's economic success

Oregon State, tech firms drive Benton County's economic success

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Tech firm Polycom celebrated the grand opening of new office space Tuesday.

In the past year, Polycom has grown from 40 to 70 employees in Corvallis as the company gains marketshare with its video conferencing systems. Worldwide, the company employs 4,000.

"You can collaborate with anybody in the world as if you were right accross the table," explained Sudhakar Ramakrishna, the company's president of products and services.

Firms like Polycom are part of Benton County's economic secret: at 6.5 percent, the unemployment rate is the lowest in the state. Oregon has a whole has 8.9 percent unemployment; the average for the entire U.S. stands at 8.1 percent.

Chamber of Commerce officials credit the tech industry and the kinds of dependable jobs created by Oregon State University.

"The university has grown in the last 15 years. I think they've grown 15,000 students," said Bob Grant from the Chamber. "With that kind of growth, you are going to have that kind of faculty and support staff growth, too."

The needs of the university community spill over into the local economy.

"The last couple years there has been a downturn in construction," Grant said. "The one area that has been bright in construction is multi-family, primarily student housing. There are several large apartment complexes under way being finished as we speak."

And the community feeling of a smaller town works well for firms like Polycom, too.

"The team is an incredibly well knit team that we have," Ramakrishna said. "There's a community feeling even though you may be working in a technology company and you're competing hard in the marketplace."