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|Articles - October 2013|
|Monday, September 30, 2013|
Page 4 of 4
Following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who worked at a paper mill his entire life, Steve Beauchamp has operated the heading machine at Portland Bolt for 34 years. Wearing a T-shirt with the sleeves cut off one recent morning, the muscular 55-year-old transferred steel rods with red-hot tips one by one into a giant gray forge. The machine clamped down and, with a deep thumping sound, punched out a hex head.
Beauchamp realizes spending multiple decades with the same company is almost unheard of these days, but he likes the stability. “This is a really solid company that grows,” Beauchamp says. “I feel appreciated here, that my experience is valued.”
Like many small-business owners, Bolt’s Todd emphasizes the family-like atmosphere of his company. “I come out here all the time,” he says, walking across the floor as members of the day shift thread and galvanize bolts. “I know all their names. I’m invested in them, and they’re invested in us.”
In general, manufacturing jobs treat their holders well, according to the Value of Jobs Coalition report. They offer wages and salaries 8% higher and benefits 59% higher than their nonmanufacturing counterparts. Plus, nonwhite manufacturing workers earn 49% more than nonwhite workers in other sectors.
In addition to covering 90% of health insurance premiums and providing seven paid holidays and two weeks of paid vacation per year to start, Applied Plastics pays for a life coach to consult one-on-one with its employees every month. “With a small manufacturer, the company has personality,” Riddle says. “I’m not sure you’re going to get that in a large company.”
Though the long-term employee base of Oregon manufacturers is fairly stable, many have trouble recruiting new blood because the education system encourages students to attend college rather than enter the workforce or enter trade school and young people tend to job hop before settling down. Plus, the practical trades have the “cool” factor working against them. “Most people don’t raise their kids to go into manufacturing,” Scherer says, explaining that many think of production jobs as dirty and low paying. “We’d like to see that perception change,” he says.
Nevertheless, as the overall economy rebounds from the recession and an increasing number of companies reshore their production, the small manufacturers left standing are stabilizing and, in many cases, growing, Scherer says.
Columbia Forge & Machine Works, which produces everything from battleship door handles to pole-line transmission hardware for the Bonneville Power Administration, is in major expansion mode. Because so many other West Coast forging operations have closed down and the Portland manufacturer is successfully moving into new markets, it has seen revenue growth of about 15% each of the last four years, Leaptrott says. Scherer predicts the next decade will be a good one for U.S. manufacturers, especially those in Oregon, because the productivity of the Oregon workforce is higher than most.
To take advantage of the reviving economic climate, basic factory businesses across the state are looking for ways to adapt both what they produce and how they produce it. Many, including Best and AmFor Electronics, are streamlining their operations by incorporating lean manufacturing techniques, often with the guidance of OMEP. Others are adjusting their offerings to better correspond with demand. Layton Manufacturing in Salem, for example, has transitioned from making asphalt-paving equipment to mobile-home-moving equipment and food-processing equipment for companies like Bob’s Red Mill and Frito-Lay.
“When I saw the market was hard to sustain, I started looking for other products that could flow through the plant,” says president John Layton, who made the latest specialty switch in the early 2000s. So far the adjustment has paid off, he says. “We bottomed out in 2008 with the recession but have been enjoying 20% growth every year since then.”
AmFor Electronics, too, is adjusting its offerings to correspond with current economic circumstances. To make use of the capacity left over from a onetime, two-year contract it fulfilled for Advance Auto Parts in 2011, the company is trying to gain traction as a contractor that manufactures other people’s ideas.
“We have excess capacity space-wise and a pretty flexible workforce,” Oliver says.
Even though many of Oregon’s small manufacturers are extremely dynamic as they shake off the downturn and figure out how to grow amid the ever-changing forces around them, they go unnoticed by the mainstream. But it doesn’t bother them too much.
“I know we bring value,” says Todd at Portland Bolt. “I see it in the marketplace.”
Thursday, May 28, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER | EDITOR
Reinventing capitalism. Office dumpster divers. Handprints versus carbon footprints.
Friday, May 08, 2015
BY CHRIS NOBLE | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN
Hagfish may not have evolved much over the last 300 million years, but their protein-heavy slime promises advances in super-materials.
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN
Floor plans embrace the great wide open.
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN
Astrid Scholz scales up sustainability.
Thursday, June 25, 2015
An international architecture firm known for its design of the National September 11 Memorial Museum Pavilion in New York unveiled its plan this week for a modern indoor/outdoor food market at the foot of the Morrison Bridge in downtown Portland.
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER
Spring rains are the bane of an Oregon cherry farmer’s existence. Even a few sprinkles can crack the fruit so badly it’s not worth picking. Science to the rescue: Researchers at Oregon State University have developed a spray-on film that cuts rain-related cracking in half, potentially saving a season’s crop. The coating, patented as SureSeal, is made from natural chemicals similar to those found in the skins of cherries: cellulose, palm oil-based wax and calcium.
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY ANNIE ELLISON
Portland tech veteran Ben Berry is leaving his post as Portland’s chief technology officer for a full-time role producing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) aimed at first responders and the military. Berry’s AirShip Technologies Group is poised to be on the ground floor of an industry that will supply drones to as many as 100,000 police, fire and emergency agencies nationwide. He reveals the plan for takeoff.
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Oregon-based Environments helps companies create inspired workspaces. “Simply put, we help companies future-proof their workspaces,” says Chris Corrado, president. Since 1988,Environments has witnessed firsthand the changing landscape of business. Native Portlander and Environments founder Corrado says, “We help our clients navigate the complex realities of the workplace today and plan for their future in a very mindful, strategic way. We think of ourselves as their partners in the process.”
One hundred years ago, the Willamette River might easily have been mistaken for a sewer. Unchecked industrial activity and decades of pollution made it unrecognizable compared to the clean river that now flows north for 187 miles from Eugene through the center of Portland.
Bend energy leader brings passion for efficiency and renewable energy to the nonprofit.
Event in Forest Grove marks recognition of Global Food Safety Initiative Certification.
Colette Young to lead staff at Southwest Portland branch.