Home Archives November 2007 Something old, something new

Something old, something new

| Print |  Email
Thursday, November 01, 2007

{safe_alt_text} ROBIN DOUSSARD

One thing became clear to me while standing in a former lumber mill on the outskirts of Burns a few weeks ago on a cold, bright day, learning about a new business that had taken up residence there.

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but it’s also reinvention’s midwife.

Few counties in Oregon are struggling with the loss of an old economy (in this case, timber) as much as Harney County, and the zeolite plant is as good an example as any of a new industry growing, literally, on top of an old one. The zeolite plant, operated by ZeoCorp, is housed in the old Hines lumber mill site. An unlikely phoenix, but a rebirth nonetheless. Out of the ashes of timber a mineral business has risen, bringing new jobs with it.

Few people I’ve met are as clear-eyed about the challenges facing Harney County as Steve Grasty, the county judge. As Grasty and I walked through the plant, he talked about his frustration with a failed state data archive center that could have brought a high-tech hub to the area, in addition to the ongoing need to find an economic path out of the timber decline. The county, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state, recently lost dozens of jobs when the Louisiana-Pacific mill in Hines closed. As Grasty earlier told me, “Our future is somewhere between doing nothing, and doing what we used to do.” But what will that be?

Maybe the answer is in something like zeolite, a volcanic ash found in large quantities in Hines that’s used in products from livestock feed to cat litter. Maybe it’s in going organic, like Harney County rancher Louie Molt with his alfalfa and natural beef operation. Maybe it is in something yet to be created or even imagined. As we witnessed in our travels around Oregon in September on the Business is Good tour, the same questions exist in rural towns, coastal communities and inland cities.

In this issue, we drew upon what we found on the road and in other travels to gauge where the state’s economy is headed. Three themes emerged in places large and small: New economies are taking root where others have faded; many main streets are under construction and thriving; and the green dream is getting stronger as businesses and governments give sustainable practices more than just lip service.

But there still are many communities and businesses in every corner that are not thriving, where there are just as many challenges that have yet to meet a solution as success stories. So our coverage of the innovation that will help drive the state’s transformation won’t end here because these themes are only part of the story, and Oregon is still in the middle of its metamorphosis.

And it will be the smart, dedicated people who live and work in every one of those corners who will, along with necessity, be the midwives for Oregon’s future.

 

More Articles

Workplace benefits

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Health care and vacations rule. That’s the consensus from our reader poll on workplace benefits that help retain and recruit employees.


Read more...

Closing the gap: Community colleges and workforce training

News
Thursday, March 27, 2014
03.27.14 thumb collegeBY MARY SPILDE | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

Community college career, technical and workforce programs present an opportunity to bring business and education together as never before.


Read more...

Q & A with Chuck Eggert

News
Thursday, March 06, 2014
03.06.14 thumb pacfoodsBY HANNAH WALLACE | OB BLOGGER

The founder of Pacific Foods talks about why his company has flown under the radar in Oregon, how saving a family-run chicken hatchery has helped his bottom line and why he thinks organic food is anything but elitist.


Read more...

From the Editor: The human factor

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014

In this issue, we celebrate our 21st annual 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon project.


Read more...

Banishing oil burners reaps benefits for schools

News
Tuesday, April 01, 2014
04.02.14 thumb co2schoolsBY APRIL STREETER | OB CONTRIBUTOR

Three years ago, PPS set out to begin to convert the 1930s-era boilers from diesel/bunker fuel to cleaner-burning natural gas. Oregon’s largest school district has realized impressive carbon dioxide emissions reductions, setting an example for public and private institutions.


Read more...

Rapid ascent

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
IMG 4255-2BY AMY MILSHTEIN

Kelly Dachtler, president of The Clymb, redefines outdoor retail.


Read more...

Are millennials reshaping politics in the Pacific Northwest?

News
Wednesday, April 02, 2014

MillennialsThumbA new report explores the impact of millennials on Oregon's business and political climate.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS