The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

Sort Interviews by Affiliation or Theme

Eric and Jeff Ball Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

July 13, 2015


“A Douglas County Success Story”  July 13, 2015  Location: Orenco Systems Industries, Sutherlin, OR.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, the Ball brothers describe their family background, their upbringing on a ranch near Roseburg, Oregon, and their high school experiences, with particular emphasis paid to their early interests in engineering, their mutual love of tennis, and their attendance of classes at Umpqua Community College. Eric and Jeff next reflect on their undergraduate years as mechanical engineering students at OSU. In this, they each comment on their progression through the mechanical engineering program, the senior projects that they conducted, and their use of computers and calculators while students. They likewise note their living situations, social lives, campus involvement, recreational activities, and work at Orenco Systems Industries during the summer.

The session then shifts focus to the evolution of Orenco that occurred in the years following the Balls' graduation from OSU. Each comments on their decision to return home to work at Orenco rather than pursuing employment elsewhere. They also share the story of Orenco's founding, their memories of working for the firm when it was still run out of the Ball family home, and the early innovations in wastewater systems that fueled the company's growth during the 1980s. They next discuss the company's move into developing composites, the differing roles that Eric and Jeff have come to assume within the company, their sense of the company culture that has emerged over time, and the business creating custom ping pong tables that the Balls have spun off of their work at Orenco.

As it enters its final phase, the interview turns its attention to the socioeconomic realities facing Orenco as well as the larger population of Douglas County. The brothers lend their perspective on the role that Orenco has played within the community of Sutherlin and their larger view of the challenges facing Douglas County in 2015. The session concludes with an update on the Balls' continuing relationship with OSU and their thoughts on changes that they have observed at the university.