Article by Kelli Matthews | Photos courtesy of Wayfair, Western Shelter Systems, and Dominick Barbero Photography
Spin just about any globe and put your finger on Oregon, chances are, Eugene won’t be labeled. But thanks to several local businesses, both homegrown and strategically located here, Eugene is making its mark around the world and across our community.
A city like Eugene sees plenty of benefit from businesses that operate globally—jobs (both direct and indirect), community volunteer hours, fresh ideas and hometown pride. Three of Eugene’s global companies are not only thriving in Eugene-Springfield while doing business around the world, but they are embracing the community as they do it—Yogi Tea, Western Shelter/Crew Boss and Wayfair.
Traded sector businesses are crucial for the growth of a local economy. Joshua Mongé, Director of Economic Development for the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce explains it this way, “Companies like Yogi Tea and Western Shelter make a product here and then sell the product all over the world. This brings new money to the local economy.”
“The vast majority of our products go outside Oregon,” says Michael Scala, President and CEO of Western Shelter and Crew Boss. “We’ve grown the business substantially in the last four years and expect to be able to continue that trajectory into the next five.”
From the aftermath of deadly hurricanes and natural disasters, to mobile field hospitals in conflict zones, Western Shelter systems are literally covering people around the world when they’re at their most vulnerable. “We could be located anywhere,” says Scala, “but we choose to be in Eugene.”
Like Western Shelter, Yogi Tea is innately international. “From the beginning, our founder Yogi Bhajan’s purpose was to make the specially formulated, functional teas available to every person on the planet. It’s why we exist,” explains Sat Bir Khalsa, the Director of Global Community Relations and Human Resources for Yogi.
Wayfair recently opened a customer service and sales center in Springfield. The company credits their global reach, with the import and export of ideas, as a key factor in strengthening its team.“Our open communication and leadership structure across the entire organization allows for each location to share its successes and adopt new ideas quickly. We have a lot of flexibility to try new things,” says Joel Johnson, Wayfair Site Director.
These three companies provide hundreds of jobs for the local economy. But the paychecks alone only tell part of the local impact story.
As an example, Wayfair gives each employee eight paid hours a year to volunteer for any organization of their choice.
“We want each employee to take full advantage of this benefit,” says Johnson. “We actively cultivate new relationships with local nonprofit organizations so we can connect our people to opportunities that inspire them.” The aggregate number of volunteer hours is substantial— at full capacity, Wayfair employees will have more than 4,000 to give.
“We’ve been particularly successful here because our values as a company align with those of the community,” Johnson explains.
“Eugene-Springfield is absolutely the right place for us. We’re proud that the rest of the company is looking at our location for ideas about employee volunteerism and community engagement.”
Western Shelter’s clients and customers depend on problem solving and design thinking its staff provides for extreme or austere environments. Because Western Shelter hires smart, pays well and provides an engaging and rewarding environment, employees are loyal.
“We’ve got more than 130 employees,” Scala says. “They’re ready and able to respond to urgent requests from all over the world. It’s important our clients and customers can trust our team to build solutions that work right the first time and solve their problems.”
Yogi Tea’s local impact comes from its investments in employees through good-paying, living wage jobs and nonprofit programs as well. “Our employees are giving us most of their awake time,” Khalsa explains. “We honor that.”
One of Yogi Tea’s most significant investments is their new facility in west Eugene—the only LEED-certified tea manufacturing facility in the world.
"Committing to LEED certification is an investment in the community,” Khalsa says. To achieve LEED certification, you must source a high percentage of your materials and labor locally, divert waste from the landfill and focus on the long-term environmental impact of the building. The $25 million building provided construction jobs and new and expanded positions at the company.
Global companies are important to local communities because they bring the world a little closer to home. We access new ideas, processes, products and ways of doing things that may not be here in this market.
Eugene-Springfield has a unique combination of values and historical precedence that allows it to contribute to the global community in a unique way.
By building companies like Wayfair, Yogi Tea and Western Shelter here, people from our community are sharing their values and priorities with these companies. New ideas and process could be developed here and ultimately impact the brand culture and processes.
Eugene-based companies are making their mark in global business and our community is richer for it.
“We’ve been particularly successful here because our values as a company align with those of the community.” - Joel Johnson, Site Director for Wayfair.
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