Sponsored by Lane Powell

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

The 10 most successful crowdfunding campaigns in Oregon

The Latest
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
081915-crowdfundingmainBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

One of the hottest new investment trends has proven quite lucrative for some companies.


Aim High

September 2015
Thursday, August 20, 2015

We get the education we deserve.


More Than Meets the Eye

Guest Blog
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Janet Yellen official Federal Reserve portrait-thumbBY JASON NORRIS | CFA

On September 17, the much anticipated Fed decision was delivered and the equity markets haven't liked it.


Big Geek

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

To attract technology companies, the U.S. Bancorp Tower repositions itself as open, light and playful.


Up on the Roof

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

In 2010 Vanessa Keitges and several investors purchased Portland-based Columbia Green Technologies, a green-roof company. The 13-person firm has a 200% annual growth rate, exports 30% of its product to Canada and received its first infusion of venture capital in 2014 from Yaletown Venture Partners. CEO Keitges, 40, a Southern Oregon native who serves on President Obama’s Export Council, talks about market innovation, scaling small business and why Oregon is falling behind in green-roof construction. 


100 Best Nonprofits announced

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

1015-nonprofits01Oregon Business magazine has named the seventh annual 100 Best Nonprofits to Work for in Oregon. The rankings were revealed Wednesday night during an awards dinner at the Sentinel Hotel in Portland.


Reader Input: School Choice

September 2015
Thursday, August 20, 2015

Which of the following would be most effective in reducing the cost of operating a public university in Oregon?

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02