Sponsored by Oregon Business

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

Thy neighbor's house

March 2015
Friday, February 20, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Vacasa may lack the name recognition of Airbnb. But not for long.


Read more...

5 ways successful people kickstart the day

The Latest
Thursday, April 02, 2015
coffeethumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Are mornings the most productive part of the day?  We ask five successful executives how they get off to a good start.


Read more...

Banking Perspective

April 2015
Thursday, March 26, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

A conversation with Craig Wanichek, president and CEO of Summit Bank.


Read more...

City announces plans for Portland summer-league baseball team

News
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
IMG 3888BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Baseball is returning to Portland and city officials are hoping economic opportunity comes with it.


Read more...

Bike Chic: 7 stylish options for cyclists

April 2015
Thursday, March 26, 2015

Cycling to work is all the rage. But not everyone wants to arrive at the office messy, sweaty — and unfashionable.


Read more...

The best crisis is the one you avoid

Contributed Blogs
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
crisisthumbBY GARY CONKLING | GUEST BLOGGER

Avoiding a crisis is a great way to burnish your reputation, increase brand loyalty and become a market leader.


Read more...

Beyond Bodegas

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Five years in the making, the Portland Mercado — the city’s first Latino public market — will celebrate its grand opening April 11. A $3.5 million public-private partnership spearheaded by Hacienda CDC, the market will house 15 to 20 businesses in the food, retail and service sectors. It has some big-name funders, including the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and JPMorgan Chase. The project goals are equally ambitious: to improve cross-cultural understanding, alleviate poverty and spur community economic development. 


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