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New Tualatin arrival brings tech positions

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Len Crane is president and CEO of VersaLogic, a rugged industrial computer manufacturer which relocated to Tualatin last month after 35 years in Eugene. Crane says Tualatin was an ideal choice because of the large pool of technical knowledge to hire from.The newest addition to Tualatin’s corner of the Silicon Forest is a 35-year-old tech company whose products can sometimes be found in jet cockpits or freezing desert wastelands.

But VersaLogic president Len Crane explains that rugged industrial computer manufacturer started as a bit of an accident — the result of a hobby that got out of control.

Back then, Crane belonged to the Eugene Computer Club and was fascinated by how he could combine an expandable computer system with a powerful, but fairly inflexible, one. His company has since taken that flare for customization to create a product line that primarily serves military and medical markets, where reliability and longevity are prized. Not only are VersaLogic systems built to last, products are guaranteed to be available for about seven years on average — much longer than the industry standard.

Customers from the medical field who use VersaLogic systems are often awaiting approval from the Federal Drug Administration, a process that can take about two years, Crane points out.

“In Taiwan, (manufacturers) are changing parts like yesterday’s shorts,” Crane says. “If (a customer) has to change this, the brain of their whole system, they have to start over again. So what we do is guarantee that any product we make will be available for a minimum of five years. In an industry where parts change about every two years, that’s a challenge. But that’s a challenge that we have mastered.”

New digs

After kicking off its opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on March 14, VersaLogic is settling into its new 60,000-square-foot office and warehouse space at 12100 S.W. Tualatin Road quite comfortably. But the move actually began two years ago, with the opening of a satellite office in Tigard to house the company’s research and development team.

After more than three decades in Eugene, Crane had decided VersaLogic would benefit from being closer to key suppliers like Intel.

“It sounds silly, but that 100 miles between here and Eugene just really cut us off from a lot of contact,” he explains.

It might sound counterintuitive, too, that he found the complexities of the industry increasingly demanded more face-to-face contact, even in an age of effortless video conferencing. Still, it became imperative for VersaLogic to move its staff of nearly 100 people to the Portland area.

It wasn’t just the lure of suppliers that ultimately brought VersaLogic north, however: In a city of little more than 150,000 people, the pool of potential hires was limited.

“The primary reason that we came here was to have a supply of technical staff,” Crane says. “We could not hire engineers in Eugene anymore. There just weren’t any.”

Beyond engineers, Crane says there were few technical marketing or sales people on the job hunt in Eugene.

But the move was a difficult one for a company that could boast several long-time employees who had been employed at VersaLogic for 15 years or more. Crane says he lost about 20 percent of his staff — and “a lot of tribal knowledge.”

Now settled in Tualatin, VersaLogic currently has 18 openings and has hired four folks from the region in the past month. Staffing up has proven a relief to a company that has been short-handed for nine months as it negotiated its big move, Crane says.

None of the open positions are entry-level, and VersaLogic does not currently offer an internship program.

Crane estimates that the technical requirements of these positions require at least eight years of experience.

“We couldn’t take somebody out of school and train them, it’s just impossible,” he says. “We’ve actually tried, but they were interns for five years before they could work on any of our programs.”

Local amenities

Almost immediately, the new neighborhood proved far more convenient: When re-assembling and re-calibrating an essential piece of machinery proved nearly impossible, Crane and his staff discovered a supplier only four miles away who had one.

“The resources here are just completely different than Eugene,” Crane says. “We have what’s called a shock and vibe machine. We build very high-reliability products. And every product we make, we put on this machine, and it shakes the heck out of it.”

And the 80 percent of the VersaLogic staff who made the physical move with the company have been pleased with quality of life in the region.

“We’re really committed to this area,” Crane says. “We have a 10-year lease on this building.”

But most of all, he points out, “We’ve moved families and staff.”

For more information about VersaLogic, visit versalogic.com.




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