Picking Winners in the Oregon Economy

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You might not think there’s much money to be made in guitar picks, but an Oregon manufacturer seems to have found the right formula.

Steve Clayton Inc., based in the southern Oregon town of Talent, recently announced it’s expanding its 11,000-square-foot facility by more than 50% and will be increasing its 10-person workforce. According to a story in the Medford Mail Tribune, the planned new expansion “comes after a recent second-story addition on an existing building that added new offices and a packaging facility.”

Clayton is one of the top two guitar pick manufacturers in the country, the Mail Tribune reported, and “has provided guitar picks for musicians ranging from Johnny Cash to the Foo Fighters.” It was the first guitar pick company to introduce Internet sales, starting eight years ago, and is the only one whose website lets you custom-design your own picks on-line.

“Custom orders range in quantities from as few as 30 picks … up into the millions,” the Mail Tribune said. The company makes picks from 15 different types of plastic and in eight different thicknesses so customers can get exactly the sound they want.

Steve Clayton Inc. is very much a family affair: Steve’s wife, Sue, is the company accountant and their daughter Chrystal handles marketing. The Claytons moved up from Southern California in 1983 to launch the business initially in Cave Junction.

Why am I writing about a guitar pick manufacturer in Talent, OR? Well, first off, because I think it’s a cool success story. And second, because it’s another example of a mom-and-pop business that is NOT fleeing Oregon because of our supposedly crushing tax burden – in fact, it’s growing.

On a larger scale, Mike Rogaway of The Oregonian reported Thursday that Oregon companies attracted $106 million in venture capital in the first half of 2010, which was “the biggest take in four years” and about three times as much as in the first half of 2009.

A key factor in the growth, according to Rogaway, was “the emergence of a new class of startup. Oregon entrepreneurs have historically focused on computer hardware and, to a lesser degree, software and Web services. But the big winners in the first half of the year were medical technology company Home Dialysis Plus, which attracted $50 million from Warburg Pincus, and Medford wind turbine specialist UpWind Solutions, which secured $29 million.

“The state has long sought to nurture growth in the medical technology and clean energy industries. This year, there's evidence that venture capitalists see promise there, too.”

Despite the dire predictions of opponents of Measures 66 and 67, it looks like people are still finding Oregon an attractive place to do business and invest money.


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