By Dana Siebert
For The Register-Guard
SEPT. 13, 2016
Eugene is a rich town — perhaps not in the traditional sense, but in its special ideology that attracts and retains people and families, as well as the creative, forward-thinking and innovative minds that choose to embrace it. To grow and thrive, it is critical for our city and its residents that we blend Eugene’s culture into a climate that fosters economic development.
Oregon RAIN — the Regional Accelerator & Innovation Network — and those driving it are accomplishing just that through a successful collaboration between the public and private sectors to support entrepreneurs.
Oregon RAIN, a priority project of the governor’s regional solutions network, leverages community, university and business resources to create an ecosystem of assistance and mentoring for entrepreneurs. By influencing the entrepreneurial spirit and enhancing a culture of innovation through mentorship, RAIN has stimulated economic development in the southern Willamette Valley and the central Coast — creating new opportunities, jobs and wealth.
Since its inception in 2014, RAIN has assisted 375 companies. In the same period, those companies have created 212 new jobs in our region, generated more than $6 million in revenue and raised $17 million in invested capital. In addition, our network has engaged 1,769 students, 173 mentors and 76 angel investors.
These numbers directly represent RAIN’s progress and its impact on our region’s economic development. As chairman of Oregon RAIN, I am proud of these results, and I am confident they are just the beginning.
RAIN relies on four key components to feed the entrepreneurial ecosystem, encouraging long-term economic growth: entrepreneurs and their ideas; programs to nurture those entrepreneurs; a network of support and mentorship; and capital to be invested in those companies.
We have witnessed considerable and consistent growth in each of these categories, and because of this, we have experienced an impressive increase in applicants to our accelerator programs. Many catalysts are to be credited with the formation and development of RAIN. Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy, one of the original co-founders and board members for RAIN, deserves credit for her support and recognition of entrepreneurship as the seed corn of economic development.
Dave Hauser, president of the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, and David Conover, vice president for innovation and research at the University of Oregon, along with the parallel team in Corvallis and at Oregon State University, represent a unique alliance between cities, chambers of commerce, universities and the private sector. They aligned around the common goal of the creation and continued growth of business in the region by bolstering an entrepreneurial ecosystem to drive economic growth.
It is exactly this collaboration that has helped RAIN establish itself. Through the vision and leadership of these individuals, RAIN has been able to marry public and private resources in support of its goals and impressively raise $1.40 for every dollar provided by the state.
RAIN’s founding leadership team serves as a united and visible presence for innovation-based economic growth through the application of people and resources in support of entrepreneurs. Just last month, RAIN Eugene welcomed the fourth and newest cohort to its new headquarters at 942 Olive St.
RAIN Eugene shares working space with the University of Oregon’s Tyler Invention Greenhouse and Product Design Program. Emphasizing the collaborative nature of RAIN, the building was generously made possible through a $1 sale to the UO through the city’s urban renewal agency. Following the sale, the UO, in conjunction with state dollars provided through RAIN, invested $3 million to renovate the 12,800-square-foot building.
RAIN’s success has helped create a special place where entrepreneurs, students, researchers, investors and mentors can come together to share ideas and create innovative solutions and businesses. The building is a lasting symbol of RAIN’s progress and impact, made possible through the collaboration between the city of Eugene, the chamber, the UO and our many partners in the public and private sectors.
Dana Siebert, executive vice president of Green Energy Corp., is board chairman of the Oregon Regional Accelerator & Innovation Network.