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Posts Tagged ‘dying town’


Photo: Rupa Shenoy
Mayor Betty Roppe oversaw Prineville’s transformation after data centers injected new life. “We can keep the small-town feel. I’m sure of it,” Roppe says. “We don’t want to be a big city.”

I’m not always a fan of today’s tech giants, but I have to admit that when they provide jobs where there were no jobs, they are saviors.

This story tells how a dying town proved it was worthy of a tech company’s investment. Rupa Shenoy at Public Radio International reports this episode of PRI’s “50 States: America’s place in a shrinking world.”

“Everything people post on Facebook actually lives somewhere in real life — like a small town in central Oregon that was once decimated by the loss of manufacturing industries. …

“Steve Forrester’s grandparents got here in 1902. When he was growing up in the 1970s, Prineville was idyllic.

“ ‘It was a magical, magical place to grow up,’ he remembers. … ‘And everybody had a job, and everyone did well.’ …

“But when the federal government restricted logging and increased protections for animals … the city’s milling industry was decimated … Forrester took a job with one of the few remaining mills, because he wanted to live in Prineville.

“Eric Klann was driven by the same devotion. He’s the seventh generation of his family to live here. Out of college, he also took a job in Prineville that he knew wouldn’t last. …

“A few years later, the nationwide housing bubble burst and demand declined for housing parts made by the last mills. Lots of people lost jobs and left. It felt like Prineville couldn’t catch a break.

“Both Forrester and Klann felt lucky to land jobs at the city — Forrester as city manager, Klann as city engineer. Their chance to save Prineville came in 2009, arriving in the form of a mysterious email from a company called Vitesse.

“ ‘For the longest time, we had no idea what Vitesse meant,’ he says. …

“Vitesse wanted to build a big warehouse and fill it with rows and rows of servers — servers that tend to get hot. Central Oregon’s cold nights could cool them naturally. Klann remembers the first in-person meeting with Vitesse, and how it felt like Prineville’s last chance. …

“Klann and Forrester decided to outperform the other cities Vitesse was considering. They showed the company their small town could move at big-city speed, by responding to Vitesse’s questions day and night. …

“Their strategy worked, and in 2010, Prineville finally learned who Vitesse actually is. Mayor Betty Roppe was at the new data center’s groundbreaking.

“ ‘They had the big finger with a thumb-up Facebook sign, and we all pressed the button and it lit up, et cetera,’ she recounts. ‘That was the big announcement — it was Facebook.’ ”

More at PRI, here.

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