Home Archives June 2009 The phantom chemicals boom

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

Video: Kickstarting Oregon business

Thursday, March 27, 2014
02.04.14 Thumbnail VideoBY JESSICA RIDGWAY | OB WEB EDITOR

Watch this OB Original Video about three Oregon companies and how crowd-funding "kickstarted" their business ideas.


Q & A with Chuck Eggert

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.


How to help your staff solve their own problems

Contributed Blogs
Friday, March 21, 2014
03.21.14 thumb coxcoffeeTOM COX | OB BLOGGER

During a recent talk to HR Directors, I asked if they saw leaders trying to solve every problem, instead of delegating to and empowering staff. Every head nodded. Every single one.


Are millennials reshaping politics in the Pacific Northwest?

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

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


Closing the gap: Community colleges and workforce training

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.


The 2014 List: The Top 33 Large Companies to Work, For in Oregon

March 2014
Thursday, February 27, 2014

100best14logoWebOur 100 Best Companies project turned 21 this year, so pop open the Champagne. Our latest survey gives us plenty to cheer.



What I'm reading: Brad Smith & Travis Boersma

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Brad Smith, founder of Hot Pepper Studios, and Travis Boersma, president of Dutch Bros. Coffee, share their recent reads.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02