In 1995, when Hyundai-turned-Hynix courted, and ultimately chose, Eugene over cities in Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas to build a $1.5 billion computer-chip factory, it was a coup for the city like no other. “Today’s announcement,” a beaming Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber said, “is another indication that Oregon is truly among the global leaders in the production and design of semiconductors.”
Twenty-two years later, the empty plant — shuttered for nearly a decade after all 1,000 employees gradually were let go and the complex closed — went up for auction with a winning bid Wednesday that barely rose above the $10 million minimum.
Nothing could be further from the river-and-tree trappings of author Ken Kesey’s town of Wakonda in his novel “Sometimes a Great Notion” than a semiconductor plant. And yet Kesey clearly understood a thing or two about the transitory nature of people, the land — yes, even economics.
“I say there was no permanence,” Kesey wrote. “Even that town was temporary. I say it. All vanity and vexation of the spirit. One generation passeth away, and another cometh … .”
Whether the topic is high-tech industry or the houses along the mythical Wakonda Auga River succumbing, one by one, to the rain-fed rising waters, the lesson is the ever-changing landscapes of lives. Places….