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Forum explores rural web work through access to broadband

Broadband connections are said to open many doors, and to allow rural Oregonians to live where they wish — and still make a living.

In connection with a strategic plan recently adopted by the Q-Life Network, the City of The Dalles and Wasco County, a forum titled “Web Work – Anywhere” will take place in Dufur Thursday, March 13, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

According to Carrie Pipinich of the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District, this forum will highlight local businesses that use broadband effectively to support their business models.

“It will showcase these individuals, their companies, and the work they are able to do with the rest of the world from right here in our region,” she said.

A crop marketing consultant, a seller of exotic hardwoods, boutique hotel owners, a person organizing a community music program, a representative of a family business selling natural foods and products in 36 states, and the chairman emeritus of a defense systems contractor will describe how they are doing business using the Internet from rural Dufur and Juniper Flat.

Scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., the presentations will be at the Balch Hotel, which can accommodate a maximum of 40 people. Reservations are needed and can be made by contacting Pipinich at 541-296-2266 or

This session is intended to be the first of several to be offered in the five counties served by the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District. It is sponsored by North-State Telephone Co. and Gorge Networks, Inc.

Presenter details:

Kevin Duling started marketing crops grown on the family farm on Juniper Flat, near Maupin, in 1995. He earned a degree in agricultural resource economics from Oregon State University in 1994, and had a strong interest in using what he had learned to reduce or eliminate market risk and add value to the farm.

Neighbors soon asked for his help, and now he is helping many, in several states, all from his home office and tractor.

Steve Schaefer developed Hawai’ian Hardwoods Direct after moving to Dufur from Hawai’i in 2004. He used his knowledge of wood harvesting, manufacturing, and marketing, and self-taught skills with internet marketing and website creation to launch the business, which supplies wood cut to specific dimensions for guitars, ukuleles and a few other acoustic instruments and side-line products to luthiers and specialty wood companies in the USA and numerous countries around the world.

Wendy Shaefer is a teacher and nine-year resident of Dufur. For the past three years she has been pursuing her own interest in music through the James Hill Ukulele Initiative teacher certification program, and teaching group music lessons to youth and adults in Dufur. A community music program is developing, with the mission to have fun, learn music, and build community. A simple website hosted by Google Sites has just been unveiled and is key to the sustainability of the venture.

Samantha Irwin learned to type on a typewriter allowing two spaces after a period. She, with husband Jeff, owns and operates the Balch Hotel and uses the web and technology in various ways for their business. From website Search Engine Optimization (S.E.O.), to social media, to networking sites, she’s constantly on the path of learning what tools work and how to make them work for her business.

Jeff Irwin started in electronics and telephony in the mid 1980’s in the Coast Guard. He has worked over 20 years in the computer industry with the U.S. government, Sprint, and now CenturyLink. His background ranges from early mainframe to website design and administration, network architecture, design, and support.

David Stelzer. On the flanks of Dufur, in the east-side foothills of Mt. Hood, the story of Azure Standard really began in 1971, when the Stelzer family made a radical change to the operation of their 2,000-acre dryland wheat and cattle ranch. Spurred by their desire to work with the natural fertility of the land, they gave up the widely popular chemical fertilizers, and dedicated themselves to “organic” — long before the notoriety of the term today.

They began selling healthy, nutrient-dense food to interested friends and neighbors, and it grew from there. Azure now organically farms 4,000 acres, and is the fourth largest distributor of organic and natural products in the country.

David S. Wehrly earned a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has been on the vanguard of high performance computing for over 45 years. He retired from IBM in 1992 as the senior executive for systems development and management of supercomputing. After retirement, he founded Forefronts Technologies Group, a Defense Systems contractor, and served as its chairman and chief technical officer for 20 years, retiring again in 2012. The Forefronts business model is that of a fully distributed organization. All operations are located at customer locations and use extensive distributed network facilities for all development, integration, computing and support.

Dr. Wehrly is currently chairman emeritus of Forefronts, and a senior fellow of the Institute for Advanced Computation.


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