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Lions, tigers, bear markets

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Monday, September 01, 2008

It’s been a difficult spring and summer: The economy cyclone flattened the house; the yellow brick road expansion has run out of funds; the feed costs for the Horse of a Different Color ranch have gone through the roof; and without health care forget about going to the doctor to get that new heart, or brain, or nerve.

And who the hell can afford a pair of ruby slippers these days?

The hard winds continue to move across the country, gathering strength, walloping business and swallowing up consumers. Nothing seems to be going right. I look up frequently. Did I see “Surrender Oregon” written across the sky in black smoke while skipping down the road a few weeks ago?

The once-hot downtown real estate market has been sucked into the swirl. Managing editor Abraham Hyatt, in his report on page 26, looks at how the sister Wicked Witches of Rising Costs and Downturn have put the poison poppy sleep on South Waterfront. Once the darling of our Sustainable Emerald City (Motto: We’re green, but not mean), maybe Glinda will hop the tram down to the area and break the spell. Why haven’t we heard from those who represent the Lollipop Guild? It’s clear that the crystal ball used by the city of Portland, developers and other promoters wasn’t enough to keep the project from losing its Technicolor.

Cue the flying monkeys and cover your heads.

But maybe Oz is more than a dream. As this issue’s cover story on page 30 by associate editor Ben Jacklet details, agriculture is once again king and it’s bringing prosperity and hope to parts of rural Oregon. After decades of slugging along, many parts of the ag industry are breaking records.

Rural abundance. Those are two words not usually associated with each other. Just in the past few months alone, this column and other stories in Oregon Business have chronicled a litany of rural loss, not rural gain. But let’s accept this for any magic it can offer. As the cover says: Farmers making money. Imagine that.

Of course, expect things to be less rosy this fall as we wander through the hostile political forest and get bombed with rotten apples from all variety of candidates. The race between U.S. Senate candidates Jeff Merkley and Gordon Smith has gone negative, as have the presidential contenders. (In our upcoming October issue, our readers will pick one of them as the winner in our online survey.) In this issue, we’ve got interviews with Allen Alley and Ben Westlund, who would like to be the next state treasurer (page 22). Would the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow or the Tin Man be better suited?

The men behind the curtains aren’t offering a lot of wisdom or hope. Expect more turmoil in the Munchkin markets and more heartbreak at home. Don’t be surprised if Auntie Em and Uncle Henry are forced into foreclosure and are out on their keesters faster than you can say “I do believe in government spooks.”  

Maybe we should just grab that little mutt and run.


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