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Editorial: Welcome home, Insitu

December 17, 2011

The last vestiges of Bingen's faux-Bavarian theme of the 1980s have all but disappeared from the scene in the once-bucolic community just over the Hood River bridge.

Two good things can happen with Insitu's announcement (story, page A1) that the company will concentrate its capital in Bingen by locating its campus in its first home in the Gorge.

Hood River's neighbor to the north just gained a firmer place in the global economic landscape, and the Gorge economy.

Also, the rest of the Gorge gains the predictability of knowing that the vibrant, and growing, high tech company will remain where it is. The entire region will benefit by Insitu's consolidation in Bingen. The 200-employee (and growing) cadre in Insitu's Hood River engineering section is staying put. The workers in Stevenson and The Dalles will be shifted to Bingen. Not a bad commute.

"We are Hood River but we are also part of a Gorge economy," Hood River Port executive director Michael McElwee said during a recent visit to Hood River by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber.

Insitu holds, on both sides of the Columbia, a firm place in a regional economy that increasingly draws more and more small high tech firms who recognize the fertile intellectual environment in the region. As McElwee points out, technology-based employers form a well-balanced landscape along with agriculture and tourism in this area.

"Our success comes from the foundation of agriculture, intellectual capital, and recreational sites," noted McElwee.

As evident in last week's industry and business round table presentation to the governor, local businesses and agencies have a growing record to working together toward economic development, leading to greater diversity in the local economy. It's about synergy.

Such an environment can ultimately help Insitu diversify its market. There is even greater potential for Insitu, as the region's largest single employer, now that it has made clear its plans to solidify its place in the Gorge. The rich local intellectual capital of the region can play a role in helping Insitu develop uses beyond its military customers.

The encouraging thing about the Bingen announcement is that Insitu is staying with its roots, with some help from government-approved tax incentives that are underwritten by taxpayers.

Look at agencies with an interest in job training, sustainable energy development, and agricultural research, such as Columbia Gorge Community College and Oregon and Washington Extension Services. They could have a say, in further helping Insitu retain its root mission, that of developing domestic applications for unmanned aircraft.

Insitu's Bingen choice is good news for the entire region. With regard to the accompanying potential for cooperation by Insitu and its private and public neighbors in the Gorge, you could say that the sky is the limit.

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