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|Articles - June 2013|
|Tuesday, May 28, 2013|
Page 5 of 6
Manufacturing: Navigating shifting markets and subsidies
By 2011 the Portland Metro Climate Prosperity Project proudly noted that Oregon had created the largest concentration of solar manufacturers in the country. Capital totaling $1.5 billion flowed into the sector, according to Business Oregon, encouraged by government incentives to grow clean-tech industries that became a focal point of economic policy at the White House and the statehouse alike.
The results in the Portland region are real. According to the Portland Development Commission, Multnomah County alone is home to more than 12,000 clean-tech jobs created mostly over the last decade. Yet the state’s success in recruiting manufacturers like SolarWorld and Solaicx to the Portland area and Sanyo Solar to Salem has also meant exposure to young industries with volatile pricing, voracious Chinese competition, and a susceptibility to shocks as subsidies for renewable power shift with the sentiments of elected officials.
Danish wind-turbine company Vestas’ margins dropped sharply in 2011, partly on uncertainty surrounding a key federal production tax credit set to expire this year. The company rewrote its business plan and shed more than a fifth of its global workforce last year, including an undisclosed number of positions at the company’s North American headquarters in Portland.
“Ultimately, we have to figure out what the sustainable long-term U.S. market looks like in terms of megawatts and size,” says Vestas Americas president Chris Brown. “The industry is still sorting that out.”
In the solar industry, system prices fell 27% last year on the heels of similar price drops in previous years. That’s pushed up demand but also triggered a global consolidation. SoloPower recently notified the state it plans to shut down its Portland operations in June. Sanyo Solar announced 52 Oregon layoffs in April, and shortly afterward Germany-based SolarWorld, which employs about 700 in Hillsboro, began restructuring its debt to address a $624 million 2012 net loss.
Other parts of clean tech appear poised for further manufacturing growth as Oregon continues to attract startups in electric vehicles and energy storage. Last year, EnerG2 opened a 74,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Albany. It’s expected to employ upwards of 50 people producing a nanotech carbon material that allows greater energy storage for batteries and other applications. “I’m seeing Oregon as being fairly successful in attracting these types of new businesses and being a source of innovation,” says Chris Wheaton, EnerG2’s chief operating and financial officer.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER
Les Schwab has put a premium on customer service since 1952, when legendary namesake Les Schwab founded the company with one store in Prineville. (Schwab died in 2007.) But if the corporate principles remain essentially the same, the world around this iconic Oregon business has changed dramatically.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
BY AMY MILSHTEIN
Kelly Dachtler, president of The Clymb, redefines outdoor retail.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Brad Smith, founder of Hot Pepper Studios, and Travis Boersma, president of Dutch Bros. Coffee, share their recent reads.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
BY VIVIAN MCINERNY | OB BLOGGER
Oregon is home not only to many fine writers but also several accomplished small publishers.
Tuesday, April 01, 2014
BY APRIL STREETER | OB CONTRIBUTOR
Three years ago, PPS set out to begin to convert the 1930s-era boilers from diesel/bunker fuel to cleaner-burning natural gas. Oregon’s largest school district has realized impressive carbon dioxide emissions reductions, setting an example for public and private institutions.
Thursday, March 20, 2014
BY JASON NORRIS | GUEST BLOGGER
I don’t think anyone can (or should) remember what it was like to get things done without the internet. This milestone in technology has certainly benefited brick-and-mortar companies and subsequently launched a new era of businesses.
Thursday, April 24, 2014
Click here to fill out our survey on energy and environment issues. Results will be published in our June 2014 issue.
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