A community in need

Vernonia, Oregon, is a rugged logging community that has overcome a lion’s share of adversity throughout its rich history. Just 45 miles northwest of Portland, Vernonia has been at the center of Oregon’s traditional timber industry and a bedroom community to the state‘s “silicon forest” high-tech industry. The small community was transformed in 1924 with the opening of the Oregon-American Sawmill—billed at the time as the largest electric sawmill in the world, and connected by rail lines to the rest of the country—that grew the town from 150 people at the end of an isolated 30-mile dirt road into a bustling timber town connected to the world.

The mill closed in 1957, but second-growth timber provided new jobs in forestry, wood products and paper manufacturing. Other resourceful Vernonians explored careers in trade, construction and horticulture. Two innovative young Vernonia High School alumni launched a pioneering computer company in 1946. Their company, Tektronix, is credited with planting Oregon’s silicon forest, and being the incubator for numerous high-tech companies that not only employ commuting Vernonia residents but also create over 80,000 Oregon jobs.