Jeff Merkley hits the road

| Print |  Email
Articles - June 2012
Tuesday, May 29, 2012

BY LINDA BAKER 

0612 TheRoad 01
Sen. Jeff Merkley at the World Trade Center in Portland. He says the best thing about being a senator is having an avenue to address policy. The worst thing is the gridlock and "witnessing a broken institution."
// Photo by Anthony Pidgeon

It’s a Tuesday afternoon in April, and Jeff Merkley, Oregon’s junior Democratic senator, is headed west on I-84 near Boardman, explaining the purpose of the poplar trees growing along the highway. Managed by GreenWood Resources, the tree farm is to supply feedstock for ZeaChem, a company that hopes to produce advanced biofuels in its Port of Morrow based refinery.

“You might ask: Why poplar trees,” asks Merkley. He adds, reflectively: “I asked that question myself.” The answer? The GreenWood species boasts a high yield, reaches maturity in only two years and can regenerate after harvest.

A self-described math and science geek, the 55-year-old Merkley is fond of dissecting how things work, whether the subject is the conversion of woody biomass into cellulosic ethanol or the nuances of getting a bill passed in today’s “supermajority” Senate. His cerebral, detail-oriented approach to policy is one reason he’s on the road today. It’s part of a two-week Made in Oregon tour involving 47 manufacturing businesses around the state.

Since 2001, the country has lost 5 million manufacturing jobs and 40,000 manufacturing facilities. Merkley's goal is to help stop the hemorrhage by figuring out what’s working and not working for Oregon companies engaged in the business of making things.

Riding along with Merkley and his three aides for the Pendleton-Portland leg of the tour provides a glimpse of the hectic and sometimes absurd schedule of a U.S. senator — as well as the diversity of manufacturing in Oregon. With a few business roundtables and town halls thrown in for good measure, the trip also highlights the evolution of Merkley’s relationship with Oregon business owners, a group that wanted little to do with him during his campaign against two-term Republican Gordon Smith.

Merkley himself told Oregon Business in 2008: “While I was running, what I heard from the business community was that they didn’t think I could win.”

Today, as Merkley fundraises for his 2014 reelection campaign, the liberal son of a Roseburg millworker appears to be changing a few hearts and minds among Oregon business leaders, especially as he makes growth in manufacturing, central to Oregon’s economy, one of his key legislative priorities.

But tackling one of the country’s thorniest issues is no easy task, and the connection between policy at the federal level and the specific problems facing Oregon business is not always clear. The Made in Oregon tour is good meet-and-greet politics and reflects Merkley’s deliberative style. But the question for many business people, a group that is far from monolithic and often has competing interests, is what happens next.

“I give the senator credit for the interest and effort he is devoting to learning his state’s products and the challenges manufacturers face selling them in a global market,” says David Mercer, president of Mercer Windows in Beaverton, a stop on the tour. “So far, the senator is impressing me,” Mercer adds. “Now let’s see what kind of a salesman for Oregon business he can be.”

 



 

Comments   

 
Boyd Percy
-1 #1 RE: Jeff Merkley hits the roadBoyd Percy 2012-05-29 18:50:22
How about weaning us from the West Coast fuel prices?
Stop skyrocketing energy costs?
Cut the red tape and accompanying paperwork?
Get the government out of the health care business?
Quote | Report to administrator
 
 
Carl Mullan
0 #2 In support of local businessCarl Mullan 2012-06-11 19:28:37
"Made in Oregon Tour"

I like what I'm hearing.
Quote | Report to administrator
 

More Articles

6 highlights from the Craft Brewers Conference

The Latest
Friday, April 17, 2015
thumbcbcPHOTOS BY  JASON E. KAPLAN

The 32nd annual CBC attracted a record number of attendees (11,000)  to the Oregon Convention Center.


Read more...

Can small be large?

Linda Baker
Wednesday, April 01, 2015
040115-lindablogthumbBY LINDA BAKER

Leaders in Oregon's ag sector gathered this morning in Portland’s Coopers Hall winery/taproom to discuss the role of the region as an export gateway, impediments to exporting products and solutions to containerized shipping challenges.


Read more...

An uncertain future

Guest Blog
Thursday, May 21, 2015
norristhumbBY JASON NORRIS | GUEST BLOGGER

Uncertainty is a part of doing business, whether in through the lens of investment opportunities and risks or the business of running an enterprise.


Read more...

Short Shrift:The threat of just-in-time scheduling

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN

Companies can benefit when they use software to meet staffing requirements and address employees' family and life commitments.


Read more...

Picture This

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

As a general rule, the more people with autism can be provided with visual cues, the better they will be able to understand and manage their environment. It’s a lesson Tom Keating learned well. The 61-year-old Eugene grant writer spent 31 years taking care of his autistic brother James, and in the late 1980s developed a spreadsheet that created a series of nonsense characters that grew or shrank depending on how much money James had in his account. 


Read more...

Photo Diary: Forest Grove Farmers Market

The Latest
Thursday, May 14, 2015
IMG 8469BY JASON E. KAPLAN | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

There are more than 160 farmers markets in Oregon, contributing an estimated $50 million in sales, according to the Oregon Farmers Markets Association. We checked in on the Forest Grove market, which for several years has brought local produce and food vendors to Main Street in the center of town.


Read more...

Footloose

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

Founded 12 years ago, Keen Inc. likes to push the envelope, starting with the debut of the “Newport” closed toe sandal in 2003. Since then, the company has opened a factory on Swan Island and a sleek new headquarters in the Pearl District. The brand’s newest offering, UNEEK, is a sandal made from two woven cords and not much more.


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