Tek’s Shanghai surprise: Oregon jobs to China
by The Oregonian editorial board
Sunday August 23, 2009, 4:21 PM
The East Coast conglomerate that now owns Tektronix doesn’t appear to care much about having smooth relations with the state of Oregon.
Danaher Corp., which bought Tek in 2007, entered negotiations with Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s office in June over the fate of hundreds of jobs, which a company executive said would end up either in Washington County or Everett, Wash. In a bid to keep the jobs in Oregon, the governor’s office offered a substantial package of tax breaks and other incentives worth more than $1 million.
That’s the sort of aggressive leadership Oregon must have if the state has any hope of saving what’s left of its shrinking high-tech sector. Sadly, however, Tek announced out of the blue last week that it will move an unspecified volume of production work out of Oregon — not to Everett or anywhere else on U.S. soil, but to China.
Shanghai, to be precise.
The terse e-mail announcement caught the governor’s office by complete surprise. So much for trying to work with Danaher.
The company is being tight-lipped about how many Oregon jobs it will eliminate. Tek employees told The Oregonian’s Mike Rogoway that more than 400 work in the main manufacturing complex at Tek’s headquarters campus near Beaverton.
The governor’s office was led to believe that about 200 Oregon jobs were at stake when the rival location was Everett, where Tek has a sister company. Company sources told Rogoway that many more jobs than that could be lost in the move to China.
Though the announcement was a rude jolt to state officials who had tried to accommodate the company, it was no huge surprise in the broader arena of Oregon high-tech manufacturing. As Rogoway reported last week, the sector has been buffeted this year by Washington County employers like Intel, RadiSyscq and Integrated Device Technology, all closing facilities or moving jobs to Asia.
Perhaps the biggest nugget of news in Rogoway’s story Thursday was his finding that Oregon’s faltering high-tech sector “employs fewer people today than at any point in the past 13 years.” It’s part of a decade-long national trend in which companies seek cheap overseas labor and close proximity to the high-tech supply chain.
Tek’s abrupt announcement, however, is more than just another disappointment in a long string of them. Tektronix was once a storied company — the pioneering juggernaut that gave birth to several generations of Oregon technology companies and at one time the largest private employer in the state.
So the loss of Tek jobs to China isn’t just an economic setback. It’s a blow to Oregon’s psyche.