Garmin AT Navigates a Path to Growth in Oregon

Published Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The mantra “location, location, location,” is most often used to describe the key to success in real estate. But, increasingly, location also is a key variable for manufacturers. Garmin AT’s Salem location contributes to the company’s success in at least three ways.

  • Garmin makes GPS navigation systems and its Salem facility provides design, manufacturing and support for the company’s aviation division. The Salem location is at the airport, making it ideal for product development and testing.
  • Like other manufacturers, especially those with technologically advanced products, the ability to attract engineers is critical to Garmin, which has a majority of its North American design and manufacturing operations in Olathe, Kansas. The Salem location increases the company’s ability to attract workers from the West Coast, where engineering talent is heavily concentrated.
  • Garmin has become deeply integrated in the state and local community, especially Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs. This partnership benefits Oregon students, Garmin and manufacturing in general by helping create a pipeline for development of future engineers.

Just as Garmin benefits from its Salem location, Oregon benefits from the company’s economic contributions and community involvement. Manufacturers such as Garmin are especially important in the state’s smaller cities and rural areas. Garmin employs 530 in Salem, making it one of the city’s largest private employers.

Garmin’s Oregon roots trace to 1982, when II Morrow Inc. was founded to design and manufacturer navigation products for the marine, aviation and truck-shipping markets. United Parcel Service (UPS) bought that company in 1986, and Garmin bought those operations from UPS in 2003 and renamed the unit Garmin AT.

Since the acquisition, Garmin, a global company with more than 11,500 employees in more than 30 countries, has invested and expanded in Oregon. In the past 10 years, Garmin has invested in two major facility expansions at its Salem facility, increasing space from 55,000 square feet to more than 170,000 square feet. As it has expanded, the company also has upgraded and added automated manufacturing equipment, engineering development and test equipment. It also established a product support contact center in Salem. In addition to the Salem expansion, Garmin has added engineering development sites in Bend and Newport.

As Garmin’s presence has grown in Salem, so has its community involvement. Through employee donations and a corporate match, the company is consistently in the top three annual contributors to the United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley. Garmin AT is particularly active in programs to boost STEM education, providing both volunteers and financial contributions. It works closely with schools and colleges, offering internships and mentors.

“At Garmin, we believe in active involvement in our community and have identified STEM as one of the leading ways our company and individual associates can share the great opportunities technology has provided us,” said Garmin AT General Manager Steve VanArsdale. 

Garmin’s commitment to STEM is just one example of how partnerships between manufacturers and their communities help lay the foundation for long-term economic success in Oregon.