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BROOKINGS SHARES IN HIGH TECH INDUSTRIAL FIRMS

High-tech businesses in the Brookings area have grown to more than 100 employees, but still face communications, training and shipping issues, company representatives told local officials Tuesday morning.

The Silicon Harbor firms briefed a variety of county, city and chamber of commerce officials on their businesses and their challenges in a two-hour session organized by the Brookings-Harbor Chamber of Commerce.

When we talk about Silicon Harbor, its a reality, said Chamber Executive Director Les Cohen in introducing the session. We feel high-tech has a real viable potential here.

Its already here, said Wayland Bruns of CompanionLink Software. Nobodys noticed it yet.

Perhaps its because most of their suppliers and clients and even some of their employees are outside Curry County and even outside the United States. The largest of the Silicon Harbor firms, CompanionLink Software, expects to sell more than 1.25 million copies of its core product this year.

The participants also appreciated the chance to learn more about other companies.

Im not alone, said Karen DeLucca of Megalodon Multimedia. What a wonderful feeling to know that knowing that Im not the only one who has trouble teaching people how to answer the phone.

Common themes from the high-tech companies were that they chose to locate in Brookings, based on quality of life, when they were one- or two-person operations. They also shared complaints about communications links, early shipping times, room for growth, and personnel issues such as training, retention and wages.

Increased access to better electronic communications ranked as a key problem for most of the firms, though Bruns said contacts and responses from GTE now Verizon have improved since he mentioned problems at the chambers Business Outlook Conference last January.

Trying to get high-speed access here is a challenge, said Jeremy James of Harborside.

We could always use more bandwidth (electronic transmission capacity), said Bill Andrews of Parameter Development. We know that there is fiber (optic cable) up and down the coast; why cant I get hooked into it?

That immediate internet connection is crucial, said DeLucca. Our little data files chunk along, and it gets embarrassing. You dont get a lot of sympathy (from clients) for operating in paradise.

While neither Verizon nor Charter Communications were represented at the session, there were various reports of the two firms plans on offering better access. Verizon, Bruns said, plans to offer a better connection and expanded services by next month. Charter Communications, according to Ken Streaker of Diamond Communications, might offer fiber optic cable connections next year.

Bruns said he has solved shipping problems by not offering customers anything less than overnight shipping. I can see a package leave here at 1 p.m. and know that by 6 a.m. tomorrow it will be in downtown Manhattan, he said.

Space solutions are being sought in various ways. Bruns said Today Components is building. Cohen said the chamber has applied for a grant to explore the idea of a high-tech office center. When Bruns asked if any of the firms present were ready to sign a lease on a joint space for next year, no one responded.

Personnel needs ranged from training workers to answer the phones in a professional manner to retaining engineers and programmers who can command high salaries in bigger cities.

With the lower labor costs comes a lack of technical people, said Patrick Wong of Northwest Technical. If we had electronics training in the high school it would help. We would donate the equipment for better programs.

Wong suggested if the area could attract one larger high-tech firm, it would set a precedent in training and salaries that would be helpful to the smaller firms.

Getting together and supporting each other thats the first step in attracting more firms and jobs, he said.

Participating in the presentation were:

Carol Chiado of Assembly Line, with 10 employees assembling specialty circuit boards and wiring harnesses for both private business and government clients.

Patrick Wong of Northwest Technical, with eight employees servicing and selling out-of-production electronic equipment, particularly Intel products.

Dennis Kalista of Tsunami Computers and WaveNet, with five employees providing Internet services and computer sales and servicing.

Jeremy James of Harborside and Terranet Systems. Harborside provides Internet services from Crescent City to Astoria, with 25 to 30 employees in Curry County. Terranet sets up and services networks for small business offices.

Bill Andrews of Parameter Development, with five employees providing software and hardware to put medical images in digital format.

Wayland Bruns of CompanionLink, which sells software to move data from hand-held devices to desktop computers. With 18 people already in the Brookings office, Bruns expects to expand the staff by eight people over the next few months as the software goes directly to the retail market in the next two weeks. The firm also has 14 employees in San Diego.

Rory Smith of Cholwell Benz and Hartwick, CPA, providing accounting services to high tech firms from offices in Brookings and Crescent City.

Ken Streaker and Rich Edwards of Diamond Communications, with a crew of 30 employees installing fiber optic cable access to Charter Communications customers and soon starting a similar contract with AT&T in the San Francisco area.

Karen Delucca of Megalodon Multimedia, with four local employees and two off-site workers, producing compact discs for a variety of private business, government and educational clients.

Not present by participating in the Silicon Harbor group is Steven James of Today Components, with 15 employees buying and selling circuit board components and other electronic items.

All three Curry County commissioners and two commission hopefuls were in the audience, as were three members of the Brookings City Council and a council candidate.

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