Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Spotlight: Salem, Oregon

Salem, OR

With an extensive history in the food industry and business ventures, Salem is no stranger to the entrepreneurial mindset.

Salem, OR is the state’s capital and second-largest city, behind only Portland. The city has a history of food growth and business – it’s known as the “Cherry City” due to the one-time importance of the local cherry industry. Currently, it’s still home to large food-based company Kettle Foods, Inc. That said, the city’s business scene expands beyond food companies: the city attracted several computer and technology manufacturing companies in the late 1990s, creating a foundation for Salem to become a tech innovation hub.

Today, opportunities abundant for entrepreneurs in Salem, regardless of industry: Forbes ranked the city 78th overall on its 2019 list of the best places for business and careers, while WalletHub pegged it as America’s 153rd-best city for Hispanic entrepreneurs. Finally, in WalletHub’s rankings of the best states to start a business, Oregon finished right in the middle at 26th overall. That said, the state’s rankings of 19th in the “Business Environment” category and 13th in the “Access to Resources” categories suggest a robust statewide entrepreneurship scene, with nearby Portland serving as the epicenter and Salem a major part.

Based on these rankings, FundingSage has reviewed the resources that make up Salem’s entrepreneurial ecosystem:

Entrepreneurial Meetups:

The Mid-Valley Business Network runs weekly events to help its members grow their networks and improve as public speakers and business leaders.

The meetup group is a collection of local makers and creators that meet on a monthly basis to discuss projects and work towards making a permanent space.

The team hosts weekly meetings to help its members grow their networks and make connections with other business professionals.

Based in Albany, the Startup Linn-Benton meetup group aims to support aspiring and active entrepreneurs alike in the area.

The engineering group works to support software developers and engineers throughout Oregon’s Willamette Valley region.


Regular Entrepreneurial Events:

The Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs has hosted an annual trade show and luncheon in Portland for 32 years now.

The Oregon Entrepreneurs Network, headquartered in Portland, run regular entrepreneurship- and business-related events throughout the state, including in Salem.

The Chamber of Commerce hosts a variety of events, including weekly networking opportunities, an annual golf tournament and a pair of annual business awards banquets.


Startup Competitions:

Down the road in Corvallis, students at Oregon State University can compete in the school’s campus-wide, multi-round startup competition.

The University of Oregon’s Lundquist College of Business hosts the New Venture Championship, an annual competition that’s open to student teams throughout the entire country.

The Willamette Innovators Network hosts an annual pitch competition for entrepreneurs throughout the Willamette Valley, modeled after the show Shark Tank.


Co-working Spaces:

Co.W is a co-working space in Salem that offers a variety of membership deals in addition to benefits that include free snacks, drinks and high-speed Wi-Fi.

The Gray Lab aims to support creative professionals in Salem by offering a photography studio, co-working space and conference room up for rent.

Located just down the road in Independence, Indy Commons is a co-working space that provides desks as well as meeting and event space for rent.



Oregon State University in Corvallis offers the DAMlab Maker Space to students interested in small-scale prototyping and manufacturing as well as design.

Located in Portland, PDX Hackerspace is a large, technology-focused makerspace that hosts regular open houses and other events open to the public at large.

Spark Studio Salem is an organization dedicated to connecting and supporting makers in the area while also planning to bring a real makerspace to the city.



Chemeketa Community College in Salem is home to the Mid-Willamette Valley region’s Small Business Development Center location, which runs programs to support area small business.

Not an incubator program in the traditional sense, OEN organizes a variety of entrepreneurial support programs, including mentoring services, educational workshops and more.

The Oregon Technology Business Center (OTBC) is an incubator located in nearby Beaverton that provides support to the early-stage startups that make up its members.



Chemeketa Community College’s Center for Business and Industry runs the EDGE Business Accelerator, which supports aspiring entrepreneurs in the area.

Up the road, Portland State University runs a business accelerator program that works with the region’s most promising tech, bioscience and green companies.

VertueLab is a Portland-based accelerator program that supports startups and entrepreneurs looking to solve problems related to climate change.

Based in Portland, XXcelerate is a large accelerator program that works exclusively with the region’s best and most-promising womxn-led startups.



Chemeketa Community College’s Center for Business and Industry runs a number of programs to support entrepreneurship among students and the community as a whole.

Down the road in Corvallis, Oregon State University runs a variety of programs, events and resources for student entrepreneurs, both inside and outside of the classroom.

Students at Willamette University can pursue a concentration in entrepreneurship while attaining their MBA degree.


Angel Groups/VCs:

Elevate Capital runs two separate venture funds, one that invests exclusively in startups owned by women, minorities and veterans in the Portland metro area, and one that invests nationally.

The Oregon Venture Fund is a group of investors with expertise across a variety of fields that works with promising startups at any stage located in Oregon or Southwest Washington.

Located in Albany, Willamette Valley Capital provides capital and mentorship to promising early-stage startups in Oregon.


Entrepreneurial Newsletter Coverage:

The newsletter covers business news throughout the entire state, offers a weekly email newsletter containing the biggest news and headlines.

The Oregon Business Report also offers those interested the ability to subscribe to weekly e-mail updates about statewide business news and events.

While the Salem Business Journal does not offer a newsletter, it does have online access to area business news as well as access to other area publications, including Salem Magazine.


Are you familiar with the entrepreneurial ecosystem infrastructure in Salem not included in the article above?  If so, let us know via a comment below, and we will add it to the article. 

Interested in Ecosystem Spotlights of other cities in the USA?

Corvallis, OR, Portland, OR, Olympia, WA

Quinn Pilkey

Quinn is a journalism major at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He also serves as a freelance author for Hashtag Basketball where he writes about the NBA's Charlotte Hornets and at FundingSage where he researches and writes about entrepreneurial ecosystems.