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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.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
BY MEGHAN NOLT
VIDEO: Under the radar — complete with a soda counter, the traditional Paulsen's Pharmacy looks to compete with big box retailers.
Sunday, December 07, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER
On Friday, Uber switched on an app — and with one push of the button torpedoed Portland’s famed public process.
Tuesday, December 02, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER
A conversation with attorney Erich Merrill about the latest way to raise money from large groups of people.
Saturday, December 13, 2014
Seven tidbits about the president and CEO of AKT Group.
Friday, October 24, 2014
How does your workplace stack up against competitors? How can you improve workplace practices to help recruit and retain employees? Find out by taking our 100 Best Companies to Work for in Oregon survey!
Thursday, December 18, 2014
BY JASON NORRIS | OB CONTRIBUTOR
The implosion of the energy complex: The best thing for low oil prices is low oil prices.
Thursday, December 11, 2014
There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:
The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace.
Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.
This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay.
Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.
New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”
That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!
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