Small Oregon businesses go global

Small Oregon businesses go global

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Pet food products from Clackamas-based Castor & Pollux are selling well in Asia as incomes there rise.
Another company benefiting from the growing appetite overseas for upscale products is Castor & Pollux Pet Works. Brian Connolly and his wife and co-founder, Shelley Gunton, built the company on the notion that the “humanization of pets” was a long-term trend that would accelerate. Their experience living abroad in Hong Kong suggested that the cult of the happy pet was not merely an American phenomenon. The trend has accelerated as incomes have risen, especially in Asia.

Connolly says the business is exporting to seven countries in Asia, with business particularly brisk in Taiwan, Japan and South Korea and a new market soon to open up in South Africa. The biggest market of all, in China, remains blocked by Chinese trade laws, much to Connolly’s frustration. “I tried for two years to get into China,” he says. “It was just impossible.”

In taking its products global, Castor & Pollux isn’t just selling pet food; it’s selling the idea of pets as beloved family members. Similarly, Portland-based SERA Architects isn’t just selling planning services; it is selling the notion that cities can be built in harmony with the land rather than degrading it. That concept is being put to the test in Abu Dhabi, where SERA is designing a sustainable city in the desert that harnesses the power of the sun and recycles sewage water to replenish a depleted fossil aquifer.
It’s an elaborate plan, seeming closer to a whimsical science project than the business-to-business component sales of Simplex Manufacturing, Hydra-Power Systems and Columbia Industrial Products. But from a bottom-line perspective, it’s pretty much the same thing: a million-dollar contract that gets the money moving, from overseas into Oregon.