Last year, Eugene was ranked as one of America’s “Top 5 College Towns.” However, while much of the country knows our city as the home of the University of Oregon, the truth is — and has always been — that Eugene is a town with a college (or three), not simply a “university town.”
While data from the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis shows how public education is an unusually stable source of employment and a foundational pillar of what makes Eugene, Eugene, our region — and much of its growth — is being fueled by a broader array of industries than ever before.
Indeed, shortly before the pandemic, Oregon State Economist Josh Lehner declared that “the Lane County economy has never been more diversified,” with reliance on timber-related industries declining (though still vitally important) as other sectors grew rapidly in the wake of the Great Recession.
According to the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, Lane County is home to over 500 technology companies, which employ nearly 4,000 people; 173 food and beverage companies, which are expected to grow at nearly twice the rate of the rest of the economy over the next five years; and over 200 wood products manufacturing companies, employing over 7,000 people.
To that end, as the City Club of Eugene launches our 2023-2024 program year, we are committed to understanding the fullness of Eugene’s economy — its opportunities and challenges, its dynamism and constancy. A central part of this effort is to go beyond a dollars and cents analysis of trends to understand the stories of the people who make our city go and to welcome a variety of voices to the City Club stage.
We’ll start our new season Sept. 8 by welcoming Dr. Johnny Lake for a conversation on race, culture and ethnicity, followed by a program Sept. 15 about Oregon’s foster care system.
We’ll then dive into our economic programming, starting on Sept. 22 with a conversation about the manufacturing economy of our region, hosted by Arcimoto at its Eugene factory, and continuing with a series of programs highlighting the array of industries that call Eugene home, including a conversation with UO’s new president (in other words, don’t worry, we’ll still be talking about the Ducks).
City Club is also committed to going beyond our historic perch downtown to bring our programming to neighborhoods across the city, from a debate for City Council Ward 7 in the Whit (date TBA) to an examination of key issues facing Bethel at Willamette High School on Dec. 1.
This is an important step for City Club, not only because we believe that our mission requires cultivating an environment where every member of our community has an opportunity to feel welcome and empowered.
Whether you came to Eugene to run at Hayward Field or teach in our science labs; build Silicon Shire or brew beloved IPAs; labor in our forests, farms or factories; we value your perspective and what you bring to our community.
After all, we are Eugene’s City Club, and we want — and need — you to be part of it. Learn more at CityClubofEugene.org.
See you in September.