San Francisco business software company Salesforce.com plans to open a major Oregon outpost within the next several months and hire "hundreds of people in the coming years."
While several California tech companies have offices in the Portland area, Salesforce's arrival could be among the biggest infusions of tech jobs in a generation.
They're likely to be relatively high-paid jobs across an array of corporate specialties including software design, information technology, finance, customer support and human resources.
"We looked at a number of cities across the US, and chose Portland for several reasons including its incredible talent pool and proximity to our headquarters in San Francisco," said Salesforce spokesman Andrew Schmitt.
"The community there, it really jibes with the San Francisco feel and the culture that Salesforce has," he said.
Salesforce hasn't chosen a specific location yet, according to Schmitt. But public agency correspondence reviewed by The Oregonian suggests that the company is likely to pick a site in Washington County, where real estate prices are cheaper than in Portland.
Salesforce makes "customer relationship management" (CRM) software to help businesses manage communication with clients and prospective clients.
It also makes online collaboration tools similar to -- and competitive with -- those created by onetime Portland startup Jive Software. Jive moved its headquarters to Palo Alto, Calif., in 2010, but still employs about 200 in its Portland office.
Salesforce has 8,700 employees around the world. The company held a recruiting event for the new facility Monday night in the Pearl District. Attendees said the company indicated it could have 500 Oregon employees by the end of next year.
Salesforce doesn't have a firm hiring target yet, according to Schmitt, but he said it could eventually be a very large operation.
"We're kind of having a phased approach," he said. "If all goes well it could be lots of hundreds."
Regional and state economic development officials have been working quietly to bring Salesforce to Oregon, according to the company.
It's not clear what incentives Oregon is offering Salesforce. The company said it didn't immediately have details, and state officials said they would defer to the company on disclosing incentives until plans are firm.
Oregon has long been a second home to Silicon Valley companies seeking a less expensive operational hub close to their California offices. Intel's outpost opened in the 1970s and eventually outgrew the company's headquarters.
But Oregon's roots have always been in electronics hardware. The state has been less successful in attracting knowledge-based software and online services companies, even as small Portland startups have thrived in those fields.
So Salesforce's decision to come to Oregon represents a milestone for Oregon's software community and important diversification for its tech economy.
"It's definitely a step up and something we've been seeing over the past several years," said Skip Newberry, president of the technology association of Oregon. He noted that eBay and Autodesk have a growing presence in the Portland area, and said other tech companies are scouting possible sites, too.
Salesforce's decision to pick Oregon is especially significant for the region, he said, because the company has a lot of credibility in the tech world.
"They are very well established and what I would describe as a hot brand, and a company with a product that has a lot of momentum," Newberry said.
Portland startups are gaining traction, he said, but the state needs some big names, too.
"You've got to have some of these large, established players."
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