Life in Our Region
Leveraging our competitive edge to capitalize on our vibrant economy and exceptional quality of life.
Article by Brandy Rodtsbrooks | Photography by Athena Delene
Nestled between rolling hillsides and mountain rivers, it’s easy for people outside of our region to see Eugene as a quiet city with a long-held reputation for being a little different.
From being considered a haven for hippies to an outdoor mecca, our way of life in Eugene has always been an interesting topic of conversation. Generations of Eugeneans have cultivated a unique sense of identity that is significantly more complex and diverse than the stereotypes often associated with our city.
In recent years, our way of life has become a magnet, attracting a great deal of national attention to our livability and drawing both professionals and businesses to our region. Since the year 2000, Eugene has added nearly 30,000 residents bringing us to 167,780 in 2017. This growth in population represents an increase 22% since the year 2000.
What is it that makes our city a great place to live and do business? And how is this way of life positioning us for exciting, new opportunities?
Quality of Life
In 2018, Eugene was ranked one of the Top 100 Best Places to Live by Livability for its mild climate, many parks and attention to the environment, along with its artisan food and craft beverage scene, recreational opportunities and focus on the arts.
Our quality of life is a large part of what lures professionals to our area and keeps them here. “Overall, I think the breadth of culinary, cultural and outdoor activities, combined with all the conveniences and livability of a small, centrally located city, make us a very desirable destination,” says Diana Wells, downtown visitor services coordinator for Travel Lane County.
For many professionals, our growing economy has opened up new and exciting industries that hold opportunities traditionally found in larger metro areas but with all the perks of a small town. In Eugene, you can have both an exciting career and still cut across town in time to enjoy dinner with your family, something often sacrificed in larger cities. This often-elusive balance of work and personal life is attractive to new generations of professionals seeking to have it all.
Eugene’s quality of life is something the University of Oregon sells as a benefit for recruitment. “At the UO, we attract students, faculty and staff who want to live in a place with an exceptionally high quality of life, a vibrant economy, and access to culture and the outdoors,” says Vice President of University Communications Kyle Henley. “The sense of place and lifestyle associated with the city and region are part of what helps the UO recruit and retain world-class academics and researchers from around the country and even the globe.”
A Vibrant Economy
“We are in a sustained pattern of growth right now, so various sectors of our economy, especially service, tech and real estate, have been booming, says Wells. “Part of that boom is due to increases in tourism and the sheer number of people that are moving to Eugene, working and creating here and contributing to our economy.”
The area’s recent growth is spread across a broad range of sectors. Since the recession ended in 2010, jobs in construction, leisure and hospitality, and nondurable manufacturing (think food and beverages) have all grown by more than 25%. Health care, professional services, and retail aren’t far behind.
While this economic boom presents some inherent challenges, like how we will tackle the second-most constrained housing market in the country, it also leads to new opportunities for broadening our range of industries and brings additional benefits to local business with increases in both customers and a larger talent pool.
Henley sees economic opportunity in the new, largely donor-funded, Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, an ambitious $1 billion initiative to fast-track scientific discoveries into innovations that improve the quality of life for people in Oregon, the nation and the world.
“The Knight Campus will serve as a major economic engine for the Eugene-Springfield area, creating new opportunities for new high-tech companies and outposts of existing companies as we spin off technologies and leverage the excellence of our shared facilities,” Henley says.
This kind of launch point for incubating business also serves as a magnet for world-class talent, helping to build a pool of innovative professionals for the next phase in our regional economic growth.
A Connected Community
There is a tension that exists between a sense of shared identity around a key values and an embracing of our uniqueness that continues to invite critical conversations, experimentation and collaboration into the work and life of Eugenians. It is this tension that is cultivating an ecosystem of creativity and a drive to push past boundaries and on to growth.
Collaborations that bring together diverse perspectives have become a driving force in our regional development in recent years. With private, public and non-profit organizations finding new ways to work together, Eugene is enjoying the benefits of a more connected and cohesive community. Having various interests working together to collectively impact our region plays an important role in the positive momentum that is pushing forward growth in sectors like food and beverage and tech, or community development projects like downtown revitalization. These cross-sector collaborations even work to galvanize support around projects like the Knight Campus, new Riverfront Development or the growth of the Market District.
We benefit as a community from collaboration across sectors where business and community initiatives develop just as easily by connecting with other professionals at a food truck in the Park Blocks as they do in the board room. This break from traditional ways of doing business is helping professionals from the public, private, and non-profit sectors work together to address community challenges and opportunities in an efficient and productive way.
Eugene’s Competitive Edge
This type of cross-pollination builds our uniqueness in a tangible way that adds to the magnetic effect that draws professionals, looking to relocate and, in the process creates new ways to approach business development. It fuels engagement in exploring new ideas, supporting entrepreneurs and fostering creative problem-solving in business.
Whether a person was born here or made the conscious decision to relocate, we are all dedicated to constant improvement for the shared benefits to our businesses and communities. This is our competitive edge.
To take Eugene to the next level of business and livability, we need to embrace our uniqueness and fully step into a growth mindset. Let’s not retreat to the comfortable corners of stereotypes. Instead, let’s bring together our diverse assets, perspectives and skills to create a future as only we can.
“Overall, I think the breadth of culinary, cultural and outdoor activities, combined with all the conveniences and livability of a small, centrally located city, make us a very desirable destination,”
Diana Wells of Travel Lane County.
Diana Wells of Travel Lane County.
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