As I look at the sum of all the parts of this issue, I’m more than a little surprised at how the unintentional theme is success. Big and small, urban and rural. We didn’t plan it that way, but there it is.
Rural success is harder to come by than almost any other. But there’s a mill returning to life in Rogue River and a pellet plant in John Day beginning operations with both bringing dozen of jobs to areas with few prospects and high unemployment. Then there’s the hard fought and enduring success of Painted Hill Natural Beef. The classic Oregon story of an independent rancher going his own way defines how Merhten Homer created a path for cattle ranchers near Fossil to take charge of their own destiny.
On the other side of the state and on a much larger scale, Knowledge Universe, which has its U.S. headquarters in Portland, is a steadily growing force in the child care delivery space and is the largest private provider of childhood education services in the country. With about 1,400 employees in Portland and in 29 centers around the state, it is also one of the city’s largest employers and has ambitious plans to grow. The global giant might be one of the state’s best-kept business success secrets. Until now.
And in my favorite category, entrepreneurs, we’re busting at the seams. My favorite has to be Mike Slinkard, the man who invented the Human Energy Concealment System, which is a hunting suit that blocks the electromagnetic field emitted by the human body so that animals can’t detect them. The music scene seems to be particularly fertile for entrepreneurs. Taggr is a Portland-based start-up putting QR barcodes on music posters while Mike Thrasher has turned his concert promotions company into one of the biggest in the Northwest with his stealthy grassroots marketing.
Which brings us to the cover story on the Oregon Angel Fund. It has invested almost $8 million in 16 companies. The group is so successful at what it does, not one of those companies has failed. On the contrary, they have created 443 jobs and earned collectively almost $60 million in annual revenues. Six years old and already king of the playground.
All this says to me that it might be February, but I’m seeing some pretty sweet green shoots.