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Survey Ranks Oregon in Top Ten for Entrepreneurs

GRAPHIC:  A new analysis by the University of Nebraska's Bureau of Business Research ranks states on their entrepreneurial activity.
GRAPHIC: A new analysis by the University of Nebraska's Bureau of Business Research ranks states on their entrepreneurial activity.
October 8, 2012

PORTLAND, Ore. - Oregon is climbing in the ranks of states that are encouraging entrepreneurial activity. That's according to a new analysis by the University of Nebraska's Bureau of Business Research. The researchers compared data like business growth and the number of patents by state to rank Oregon sixth in the nation, up from tenth last year.

The state may be saddled with a higher unemployment rate than the national average, but Linda Westin, executive director of the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network, says business is booming in the world of start-ups.

"There has been significant job growth in companies that are coming through the ecosystem here, companies that are three or four years old, that now have 30 or 40 employees, and have 15 to 20 openings that they are unable to fill. They're looking for really specific job skills."

And she says money for good ideas isn't too hard to find, and it isn't coming from traditional banks, but from private investors. Since many businesses can now be run from anywhere in the world, Westin says that among the factors that keep entrepreneurs in Oregon is its quality of life, from higher education to outdoor recreation.

Also, part of the reason for Oregon's appeal to prospective business owners may be that there's so much encouragement. Portland State University just finished a "Startup Weekend," where anyone was invited to pitch a big idea, or just listen in. And teens can attend "Young Entrepreneurs Business Weeks." Kelly O'Brien, who organizes those summer camps, says there's been no shortage of mentors.

"For our programs, last year we served about 150 students at Oregon State University, and had over 150 volunteers from the business community judging student presentations, participating in mock interviews, and mentoring the students for the entire week."

O'Brien thinks Oregon's entrepreneurial spirit is a modern-day take on the pioneer spirit that brought past generations to the state in covered wagons looking for new opportunity.

The top five states in the University of Nebraska survey, just ahead of Oregon, are Massachusetts, North Dakota, California, New York and Minnesota. See the survey results at newsroom.unl.edu.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR