PORTLAND

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

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Bank of the West has relocated its downtown commercial offices to the iconic KOIN Center to accommodate recent growth and in anticipation of future expansion in the Northwest. This will be the first time the bank’s national banking, equipment leasing, agricultural and commercial real estate, wealth management services, and private banking will be under one roof. The 12,000-square-foot space accommodates 38 employees, including 18 new management and support positions created by the expansion, according to Bill Williamson, executive vice president of the Northwest region division.


The national headquarters for Marquette Healthcare Finance will now operate out of One World Trade Center in downtown Portland. The new branch of Minneapolis-based Marquette Financial Companies provides financing to small health-care organizations. Martin Golden, executive vice president and managing director of Marquette Healthcare Finance, says smaller markets are underserved by lenders compared to larger more lucrative clients.  Health-care finance requires particular know-ledge of the risks in health care, such as the annually changing government reimbursements, and being in tune with the “legislative environment” of health-care issues, he says. Golden says he  expects to have between 30 and 40 employees in the next few years.


California-based Solaix will  open a silicon wafer manufacturing plant this fall in the Rivergate Industrial District near Portland International Airport. Solaix creates silicon ingots that are sliced into wafers that solar panel manufacturers use in their photovoltaic technology. Solaix invested an initial $52 million in the Portland operation, the company’s first ever high-volume plant, and says it will create 100 new jobs by the end of 2007.


Gourmet soda maker Thomas Kemper Soda Company has secured three new distribution agreements, bolstering its presence in the Western states and positioning the company for national expansion. Thomas Kemper CEO Bill Germano says that in September, the soda will switch its primary sweetener from high-fructose corn syrup, which has fallen out of favor among discriminating label readers,  to cane sugar.

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There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.

This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay. 

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.

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That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

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