BAKER CITY — Venkat Subramanian doesn't live in Baker City, but he wants to support this community as much as he can.
Venkat grew up in Chennai, India, population of about 7 million. His family's roots, though, are in a village that he compares in size with Baker City.
After earning a bachelor's degree in engineering in India, he came to the United States in 2000 to earn a master's at Oregon State University.
He began working with Richard and Kathleen Chaves, owners of Chaves Consulting in Baker City, in 2004. Since 2010, Venkat's company, Arikkan Inc., has worked on several projects with Chaves Consulting, including the Synergy Data Center.
"We became really close friends, and family friends," said Venkat, who lives in Camas, Washington. "And I had an immediate connection with Baker. People are really good."
Venkat comes from a family who gave back to their community. His great-grandparents worked in international trade.
"They were the banks for the Imperial Bank of London," he said.
His comparison of that role, in today's world, is Citibank. They had partners throughout southeast Asia, and helped build cities with their wealth. And always, he said, a big percentage of their profits went to support the community and children.
Then World War II ended, and southeast Asian countries were released from Britain's control. The transition lead to, in his words, "firing the immigrants."
"We were the immigrants," he said. "We lost everything."
His family returned to their small village in India with nothing.
Venkat heard these stories from his dad who, years ago, asked his own father how the family reacted when they were left with nothing.
"My great-grandfather said, 'God had selected me to do all this. Now He's given me retirement.'"
His family, Venkat said, instilled lessons in him about the value of money.
"Our money is just an instrument, it's not life," he said. "Money should not be the cornerstone of your value."
His father attended college thanks to the generosity of donors from his village. He started a manufacturing company and eventually expanded to four facilities employing hundreds of people.
With the profits, his father supported schools and hospitals in the same town that helped fund his college education.
Venkat's business is located in Vancouver, Washington, but he felt like his monetary support would mean more in Baker City.
"I wanted to do something for Baker," he said. "My first thought was how to help kids."
After consulting with Richard Chaves, Venkat first helped provide shoes and jackets at Baker Middle School. Later, he began supporting the Backpack Program that provides a weekend's worth of food for children who need a bit extra.
He's expanding his support to include the YMCA, Crossroads Carnegie Art Center, playground equipment for the Baker Early Learning Center, and the Baker Relief Nursery.
"He feels like he can make a difference in Baker," Chaves said. "He's a good man and comes from a great family. We're lucky to have him as part of our community."
"It's my pleasure," Venkat said. "I feel fortunate I have an opportunity to make a difference."