|Jeff Merkley hits the road|
John Boston, mill manager for Pendleton Woolen Mills, describes the inner workings of the jacquard loom.
A few days after the tour ended, Merkley announced he was getting an early start on fundraising for his 2014 campaign. Already, he seems in a better position to attract the business vote. Carol Duncan for one, president of Clackamas-based General Sheet Metal, is a convert. “I backed Smith wholeheartedly,” says Duncan, who attended another roundtable held at Vigor Industrial during the tour. But Merkley has been “a pleasant surprise,” his focus on health care and vocational education a “perfect match for small business people.”
For his part, Merkley says he now has a good relationship with Oregon business. “I don’t view it as one large community I can characterize too simply, but a lot of individual relationships.” Made in Oregon helped build those relationships but it is also just one small step in the larger information gathering process that will help him clarify relevant policy goals to boost manufacturing. “I’m still immersed in a learning curve, trying to get my head around the issues.”
As that process continues, Merkley will inevitably draw on the same inquiry based pedagogical skill set that has become his signature. A few weeks before the tour launched, Merkley was in Elmer’s restaurant at Mall 205, located near his home in East Portland where he lives with wife Mary, son Jonathan, 16, and daughter Brynne, 14. He talked about how he worked with the Department of Defense last year to overcome their objections to the mammoth Shepherd’s Flat wind farm in Eastern Oregon. Officials were concerned the project would interfere with military radar, says Merkley, grabbing a napkin and drawing a picture showing exactly how turbine blades produce “clutter.”
“You might wonder, why did the Defense Department allow those turbines if they are going to obstruct their radar,” he says. “If you were to wonder that, I’d be happy to explain it to you.”