Small biz: 'We grew over 40 percent last year'

Small biz: 'We grew over 40 percent last year'

CORVALLIS, Ore. - The "Ping Meter" looks a bit like a GPS -- for crop nutrients.

If you're a farmer or own a vineyard, Larry Plotkin thinks you need one of these.

"What that does is that it lets a grower know whether their crop is under or over fertilized," said Plotkin. 

He's president of a startup business called Precision Plant Systems, one of 17 companies under cultivation at the Business Enterprise Center.

Call the center a greenhouse for startups. 

The center has grown over 100 jobs in the last year and a half working with 29 on-site and affiliate businesses.

Companies at the Business Enterprise Center pay monthly rent of $150.  For that they get office space, materials and about 600 years of business know-how from the BEC board.

"We help those small businesses get that jump start and a leg up and moving forward," said Executive Director Kathleen Hutchinson.

"We did pretty well," said Jeff Gardner, CEO of ViewPlus Technologies. "We grew over 40 percent last year."

ViewPlus makes machines that print text, graphs and visuals for people with visual impairment.

Gardner has a staff that has grown to 50, both full- and part-time.  He credits the Business Enterprise Center.

"When you have a successful business like us, we're not moving jobs off to Korea.  We're not moving jobs overseas.  We're staying right here," he said.

ViewPlus Technologies is a graduate of the BEC, with part of the operation off the Corvallis campus. Now it ships printers to 40 countries. The latest shipment is the company's first order to Russia. The printers are going to a call center that employs blind people.