Why AWS is proud to call Oregon home
Amazon Web Services (AWS) has been constructing and operating data centers in eastern Oregon since 2011. The facilities are a key part of the infrastructure needed to provide cloud computing power to customers. For more than a decade, we’ve invested more than $15.6 billion in the area—supporting local jobs, generating economic growth, providing skills training and education, and unlocking opportunities for local businesses and suppliers. We’re committed to the community and proud to call Oregon home.
Read more about how we work with the local community in eastern Oregon.
April 8, 2022
Collaboration between AWS and the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indian Reservation will offer interactive learning in science, technology, engineering, math, arts, and tribal community first foods
AWS docuseries shows what it’s like having data centers in your community
Data Centered: Eastern Oregon is a five-part mini-documentary series that tells the stories of local people whose lives and livelihoods are being changed for the better by the cloud and the opportunities it brings.
AWS Community Fund Now Accepting Applications for Projects in Morrow and Umatilla Counties
As part of its commitment to support communities where it has presence, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is launching the AWS InCommunities Fund for the second consecutive year. The AWS InCommunities Fund is a microgrant program that supports local projects driving positive change in eastern Oregon. Last year the fund supported more than 50 projects in the region, including a creative space for small business development, free English language evening classes for people who speak Spanish, and a garden at a local high school where students can grow their own produce. AWS has committed $300,000 to this year’s fund, which is open to individuals, local community groups, schools, non-profits, and other organizations in Morrow and Umatilla counties.
The AWS InCommunities Fund is managed and administered by non-profit organization ChangeX. Learn more about the fund and how to apply. Applications for the AWS InCommunities Fund will be accepted until September 1, 2023.
Reused water from AWS data centers helps grow Oregon crops
At the confluence of the Umatilla and Columbia rivers in eastern Oregon, water winds through the town of Umatilla’s neighborhoods. An irrigation canal is fed by cleansed cooling water straight from a nearby AWS data center. The water is used to grow the corn, soybeans, and wheat, for which the region is famous.
“Besides the land we own, water is one of our greatest assets," said Vern Fredrickson, local farmer and vice chairman of the Board of Directors for the West Extension Irrigation District.
How AWS data centers are spurring economic growth in eastern Oregon
When Amazon Web Services (AWS) opens its data centers, people and communities prosper. Nowhere is this more apparent than in eastern Oregon. In Oregon’s rural Morrow and Umatilla counties, AWS operations employ more than 5,000 skilled workers, or about 18% of total employment.
In the new AWS economic transformation analysis report Stories of Economic Mobility in Eastern Oregon, local employees say their lives and careers dramatically improved after getting jobs in the data centers.
For example, Ray, a native of Hermiston, Oregon, describes earning $13 per hour when he left his retail job of seven years for a data center technician contract position with AWS, which started at $20 per hour. Later, the married father worked his way into a full-time position and participated in an AWS coaching program to become a manager. He now makes nearly triple what he did a few years ago.
“We were able to buy a house last summer, and since I’m working for AWS, I am able to afford to pay a private therapist for members of our family who needed long-term health care support,” said Ray.
Uppa tells a similar story. A former registered nurse, she was dissatisfied with the inconsistent take-home pay and hours of her job. She’d always wanted to work in technology but didn’t have the background to qualify for a job at her local AWS data center.
The Hermiston resident enrolled in an AWS-funded technician training program at Blue Mountain Community College (BMCC), in Pendleton, Oregon, and managed to land an AWS job before she graduated. Today, she is a data center operations (DCO) lead who manages a team and mentors new hires, including women with career-changing aspirations like her own.
“I tell my daughters a lot of stories from work, about my successes and my challenges. I want them to know that they can be strong and pursue their ambitions, no matter what,” Uppa said.
Ben also benefited from technical training. A former construction worker and forklift driver, he’s lived his entire life in Hermiston. Ben enrolled in AWS’s Grow Our Own Talent program, which provides paid, on-the-job training for workers with nontraditional skills and experience. Between 2020 and 2022, more than 350 workers participated in Grow Our Own Talent program, with 278 of those being hired by AWS. He was one of them. In fact, he secured a job operating and maintaining specialized equipment at an AWS data center in Umatilla county and now earns twice as much as he did three years ago.
“When I started working as a data center employee, I found myself more and more able to significantly contribute to my family,” said Ben.
Finally, there’s Clint from Boardman, Oregon. After spending a dozen years working at a local chemical depot, he tried a variety of jobs and considered leaving the area entirely. Then, a casual conversation with an AWS employee led him to look into opportunities at the company, and he landed a contract position in 2017 as a cable engineer, which he held for three years before being hired on full time. He was later promoted to manager through an Individual Contributor to Manager (IC2M) internal program and has now quadrupled his annual income from five years ago.
“Thanks to AWS, I can have a job that allows me to stay local and work for a company that provides the stability I was looking for,” Clint said.
Ray, Uppa, Ben, and Clint are prime examples of how the accessibility of technical jobs and training related to cloud infrastructure can transform careers and lives. What’s more, when a company comes along with a commitment to give back to local communities, it creates pathways for future success. From 2012 through 2021, AWS has invested more than $15.6 billion in capital investment in eastern Oregon. This investment has helped support thousands of local jobs in Oregon’s Morrow and Umatilla counties as well as fund programs that are a path to new careers in tech.
In eastern Oregon, for example, AWS offers a number of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) experiential learning and training classes and workshops, like We Build It Better (WBIB), which has helped more than 1,200 Oregon middle school students gain exposure to working in technical environments.
We also partnered with Greater Oregon STEM (GO-STEM) to mail STEM kits to fourth graders across the region and launch a Mobile Maker Lab. And our AWS InCommunities programs, including AWS Girls’ Tech Day and AWS Think Big Spaces, use AWS’s unique resources to expand access to STEAM learning opportunities. Overall, AWS donated $2 million to organizations in eastern Oregon via AWS InCommunities in 2022.
AWS also sponsors training and reskilling programs, internships, and paid on-the-job learning in concert with BMCC. These efforts aim to help workers like Ray, Uppa, Ben, and Clint transition into data center technician or engineering operations roles. In addition, AWS provided BMCC with a $180,000 grant to purchase lab and training equipment, and donates $100,000 each year to scholarships for students enrolled in data center curriculums.
Ben sums up the impact of his new career simply.
“My son and youngest daughter are now able to concentrate on school instead of having to get a job to pay for their extracurricular expenses,” he said. “Working with AWS has been the single best thing in our lives, both monetarily and otherwise.”
AWS is proud of its history in eastern Oregon and the impacts of our investments in the community and with our employees. We will continue investing in regional economies to catalyze inclusive and long-term growth for generations to come.
AWS economic impact in the U.S.
This new study shows the impact of AWS investment in data centers on jobs, education, local businesses, the environment and more. Here are five ways AWS data centers benefit local communities, including in eastern Oregon.