Home Back Issues April 2012 The consummate Oregonian

The consummate Oregonian

| Print |  Email
Articles - April 2012
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Article Index
The consummate Oregonian
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4
Page 5

BY LINDA BAKER

0412_TheConsummateOregonian_01
Tom Kelly in the Neil Kelly showroom in North Portland, where the company has been headquartered since 1966.
// Photo by Christopher Barth

Tom Kelly is sitting in his North Portland office, waxing enthusiastic about his latest cause: juniper, an indigenous Eastern Oregon tree that is apparently running amok. Decades of fire suppression have left the state with a juniper surplus, and Kelly, president of the Neil Kelly Company, a design-build-remodeling firm, is incorporating the weed-like wood into a sustainable cabinet line, part of a larger effort to commercialize juniper as an industry. “What’s exciting is this could be a real job creator,” says Kelly, describing a logger in Harney County who harvested 9,000 acres last year. “He brings his equipment out to the site and cuts it down and mills it right there.”

The 60-year-old Kelly gets excited about a lot of things, most of all triple-bottom-line projects that use business to catalyze social and environmental change. The head of the largest residential remodeling firm in the Pacific Northwest, he boasts a lengthy civic resume that includes chairing the board of Loaves & Fishes, a nonprofit that provides meals to homebound seniors, co-chairing a statewide Oregon Solutions effort to build a new state-of the art green school for flood-ravaged Vernonia, and serving on a Habitat for Humanity capital campaign committee.

Notable positions and accomplishments notwithstanding, Kelly, whose rumpled hair and low-key speaking style make him seem more handyman than executive, has remained mostly out of the spotlight in the 33 years he has run Neil Kelly. Gov. John Kitzhaber, who tapped Kelly as co-chair for the Vernonia project, calls him “an unsung community leader.”

But therein lies Kelly’s secret. Gregarious yet unassuming, Kelly is one of the state’s most respected businessmen, not because of charisma, cutthroat business practices or wildly innovative designs, but on account of decidedly less sexy qualities: hard work, respect for others, and enthusiasm for the task. A second-generation business owner — his father was company founder and industry pioneer Neil Kelly — Kelly is also part of an iconic Oregon company and family. For all those reasons, his story unfolds as a story of the Oregon everyman: a tale of a native son whose values, accomplishments, and, perhaps, weaknesses, parallel those of the state he loves.

Today, Kelly seems at the peak of his game. He received this year’s Hope and Liberty Award from the Oregon League of Minority Voters, and in 2011 the Fred Case Entrepreneur of the Year Award, a national industry honor. The company received the 2010 Dean’s Award for Family Business Leadership from Oregon State University’s Austin Family Business Program. Building on that momentum, Kelly is pushing ahead with ambitious new initiatives aimed at steering his company out of the recession and keeping it at the forefront of green construction trends. But if history is any judge, his core business philosophy is not going to change.

“Tom again and again reaches beyond his own immediate interests to take a broader interest in how we make business work ethically and environmentally,” says Dennis Wilde, chief sustainability officer at Gerding Edlen Development Company who has worked with Kelly for more than 30 years. “He has a passion for the future of the state and the economy and how we can continue to improve it.”



 

More Articles

Community colleges and sustainability

Contributed Blogs
Thursday, July 31, 2014
sustainabilityBY MARY SPILDE | OB GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

Faced with the aftermath of the “great recession,” increasing concern about the environment and dwindling family wage jobs, we have some very important choices to make about our future.


Read more...

Private liberal arts education: superior outcomes, competitive price

Contributed Blogs
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
0826 thumb collegemoneyBY DEBRA RINGOLD | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

Why has six years become an acceptable investment in public undergraduate education that over-promises and underperforms?


Read more...

Managing family assets: The importance of planning ahead

News
Friday, August 22, 2014
Unknown-1BY CLIFF HOCKLEY |  OB GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

When business intersects with family, a host of  situations can arise. Without a clear vision and careful planning, hard-earned investments can become stressful burdens.


Read more...

Startup or Grow Up?

September 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
BY JON BELL

Startup culture is all the rage. Is there a downside?


Read more...

Register for 100 Best Companies survey

News
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
OBM-100-best-logo-2015 150pxwBy Kim Moore | OB Editor

The 2015 survey launched this week. It is open to for-profit private and public companies that have at least 15 full- or part-time employees in Oregon.


Read more...

Downtime

September 2014
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
BY JESSICA RIDGWAY

How State Representative Julie Parrish (House District 37) balances life between work and play.


Read more...

Molecular Movies

September 2014
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

Dr. Chong Fang isn’t God. But the assistant professor of chemistry at Oregon State University is getting closer to figuring out how he put everything together. 


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS