Sponsored by Oregon Business

The phantom chemicals boom

| Print |  Email
Monday, June 01, 2009
Given China’s remarkable economic rise over the past decade, it comes as no surprise that it has grown into Oregon’s largest export market, with the state’s savviest players such as Nike and Intel well embedded there and prospering as a result. But it is surprising which sector has seen the sharpest growth: chemicals.

Statistics compiled by WISER Trade, a Massachusetts-based firm recognized as an expert on exports, show an astronomical 292% increase in chemicals exported from Oregon to China from 2007 to 2008, catapulting them over scrap waste and paper to become the state’s second-biggest China-bound export behind only computer and electronic products.

But if you’re wondering which Oregon companies are benefiting from this trend and whether it is expected to continue, don’t waste your time. There is no trend.

The biggest clue can be found in the corresponding fall-off for exported minerals, which dropped dramatically at the precise time that the chemical numbers shot up. Hmmm.

It turns out that the great boom in chemicals exported from Oregon to China has nothing to do with Oregon business and everything to do with a change in the classification of potash mined in Saskatchewan, sent by rail to Portland and shipped around the world as fertilizer. The market for this chemical (or is it a mineral?) made a few investors temporarily rich during the commodity boom of 2008, but that boom has gone bust along with trade in general. Vessel calls and tonnage are down more than 30% at the Port of Portland, and Oregon will be hard pressed to approach, much less improve on, the record $2.5 billion worth of exports shipped to China last year.

More Articles

Insurance pulse: health care and Export-Import banks

Linda Baker
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
111715-healthcarelindathumbBY LINDA BAKER

The past month has been marked by upheaval in the health insurance markets. I also check in on clients of the Export-Import bank, a federal credit agency that subsidizes, and insures, foreign exports.


There's a great future in plastics

Linda Baker
Friday, October 30, 2015
103115-lindachinathumbBY LINDA BAKER

This is a story about a small plastics company in wine country now exporting more than one million feet — 260 miles worth — of tubing to China every month.


Photo Log: Inside Portland Razor Co.

The Latest
Wednesday, October 14, 2015

2-sheets-IMG 4897


The Love Boat

November/December 2015
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Vigor’s values don’t stop at truth. Walk into a company office, conference room or on any shipyard site and you’ll most likely see a poster inscribed with the words “Truth. Responsibility. Evolution. Love.” Otherwise known as TREL, Vigor’s culture code and the prominence it is accorded can be a bit surprising to the unsuspecting shipyard visitor.


Have a baby and keep a job? It won’t be easy in Portland

The Latest
Friday, October 02, 2015
100115kimblogthumbBY KIM MOORE

Our intrepid (and expecting) research editor finds the child care search involves long waiting lists, costly fees and no certainty of securing a place before she goes back to work.


OEN takes Portlandia route in new video

The Latest
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 3.27.58 PMBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Several Portland entrepreneurs make appearance in patently silly "The Dream of the Startup is Alive in Oregon" promo.


Run, Nick, Run

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

Controversial track star Nick Symmonds is leveraging his celebrity to grow a performance chewing-gum brand. Fans hail his marketing ploys as genius. Critics dub them shameless.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02