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Ahead of the curve

Twenty-eight years ago, Tualatin decided to balance residential and industrial development; now everyone wants to be balanced
by: Jaime Valdez, BATTER UP — Chris Anderson, Jugs Inc. production foreman, sets the timing to a pitch machine before it’s shipped out.

TUALATIN - In the next four years, Tualatin city officials expect the 300 acres of undeveloped industrial land in the city to be gobbled up by businesses.

Which businesses is still to be decided. But if Tualatin's track record for attracting international and unique companies is any indication, it could be a lot of cool things.

In 1973, John Paulson moved his pitching machine business from Lake Oswego to 89th Street in Tualatin. Thirty-five years later his sons, Butch and John, still own and run the Tualatin business, Jugs Inc., now a company with a worldwide market.

'We're the only company left, family business I mean, that hasn't been bought out in the softball/baseball market,' said Jugs President Butch Paulson.

The company specializes in affordable pitching machines sold to families, little leagues and college teams.

Paulson said his company dominates in the training pitching machine market by supplying about 75 to 80 percent of the worldwide demand. And after a few growth spurts in Tualatin - a move from 89th Street to Herman Road and an expansion to a 44,000-square-foot facility - Paulson said the family-owned business is comfortable in Tualatin.

Since the mid 1980s, Tualatin has strived to become more than just a bedroom community. And with just less than half of the land in Tualatin designated for industrial or commercial zoning, the city appears to be keeping up with its plan to have a diversified economy.

Tualatin Community Development Director Doug Rux noted that in the '80s Tualatin officials decided they wanted to be a balanced community.

'Now everyone wants to be balanced,' he said.

Rux pointed back to 2001 when businesses started to feel the pinch of a slowing economy. While some cities with a concentration of hi-tech jobs saw a lot of companies close their doors, Rux said Tualatin didn't.

'Some companies scaled back in other cities,' Rux said. 'But in Tualatin there wasn't a lot of closures.'

From school textbooks and school technology to a Coca-Cola distribution site and a pitching machine company, the business community has constantly kept Tualatin officials guessing about what might come next.

The Northwest Textbook Depository Co. arrived in Tualatin almost 20 years before city officials had a vision of a community balanced with business and residential.

In 1965, people thought the owners of Northwest Textbook Depository were crazy. The company moved its headquarters to a vacant lot on the east side of I-5 in Tualatin. With no gas stations, no fast food joints or businesses of any kind around the site, Elmer Seeley, now president of the company, admitted that the move was unusual for its time.

But today with shipping to school districts in three states done via trucks taking I-5, Seeley said, it was a smart move. Today an expanded 150,000-square-foot building on McEwan Road allows the textbook company to keep pace with orders for millions of textbooks from school districts in Oregon, Washington and Alaska.

For the last 18 years, the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Oregon has been operating a sales and distribution center on Avery Street. A plant in Wilsonville is where the bottling company mixes with water the secret formula obtained from Coca-Cola. But the plant in Tualatin is responsible for loading the bottles and cans onto trucks for distribution. Total the bottling company in Tualatin has 150 employees including drivers and sales people.

And residents are bound to see more trucks entering and leaving the bottling site in the summer, also known as the busy season said Dora Wong spokeswoman for the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Oregon.

And just five years ago LightSPEED Technologies moved to its Herman Road headquarters. The company which specializes in classroom amplification systems considers itself to be on the cutting edge of its market, said Bruce Bebb, the company's marketing communications director. The company's main product is a wireless infrared microphone worn by teachers that picks up speech and amplifies the sound through speakers set up in the classroom. Bebb called it a high-tech PA system.

The Tualatin LightSPEED site is the headquarters for the company's international sales, which primarily has customers in the United Kingdom, Australia and Sweden. Bebb said the acceptance of the company's technology as typical classroom equipment has been slow going.

'But there's no doubt our products are becoming popular,' said Bebb.

Industrial businesses seem to have flocked to Tualatin for several reasons - the close vicinity to I-5 and 99W, the ready-to-be-developed land and good land prices further away from Portland. The only problem with Tualatin's conduciveness to continued industrial growth is traffic. Rux said that he talks with all businesses about the city's plans to address traffic issues.

But despite the traffic concerns, Butch Paulson said he wouldn't want his business located anywhere else.

With international distributors, parts made in Taiwan and mainland China and a growing demand for newer products that cater to sports like lacrosse and soccer, Butch admitted that Jugs has grown bigger than his father ever could have imagined.