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Jobs Watch: Significant signs of life

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Ben Jacklet
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
A tennis pro who consults with my far-from-professional USTA team offered some nice advice on the subject of improving performance during times of stress. “Look at it this way,” he said. “At least you’re not dead.”

The same can be said for Oregon’s economy. Yes, we appear to be stuck with double-digit unemployment for the foreseeable future, thanks in part to the egregious shenanigans of Goldman Sachs and their Wall Street brethren. And yes, hostilities continue to simmer within the business community from the hotly contested debates over tax increases, health care and other touchy subjects.

But at least we’re not dead. Not even resting.

Want proof?

Intel_3For starters, consider this: Intel just completed its best quarter in company history. The company is looking to hire 1,000 people in 2010, and while it’s uncertain how many of those jobs will be in Oregon, spokesman Bill MacKenzie says a “good portion” of them will be, including a significant number of recent college grads. That is precisely the sort of news we need from Oregon’s largest private sector employer.

On the other end of the economic scale, but equally compelling for those with a bias towards Oregon’s independent spirit, is the news that Indie Hops has the state’s one and only hop pellet mill up and running in the Willamette Valley. This promising Portland start-up has moved quickly to fill the gap in local hop production for craft brewers. Early Oregon customers include Deschutes, BridgePort and Laurelwood Brewing, along with several larger California brewers such as the Stone Brewing Co.

Another start-up that’s making things happen is Portland-based Shorepower Technologies, which specializes in plug-in stations for long haul truckers and charging stations for electric vehicles. This burgeoning company has partnered with Grape Solar of Eugene in a compelling collaboration and recently earned a $2 million grant from Arizona state government to develop greener truck stops in the Southwest.

And then there's venture capital. It isn't down it's up, big time. Check out Mike Rogoway's reporting on the subject at http://blog.oregonlive.com/siliconforest/2010/04/venture_activity_up_sharply_in.html

Okay, so Shorepower and Indie Hops are hardly powerhouse job creators at this point. So back to the behemoths. A few years ago Oregon had just one Fortune 500 company, Nike. Precision Castparts made its debut on the list in 2008 at number 444. In the two years since it has jumped to number 325, passing over the likes of Yahoo and Key Corp along the way.

Who will be next to make the elite list, Schnitzer Steel or Columbia Sportswear? My money is on Schnitzer, which recently closed its 16th Acquisition since 2005. Between the leadership of Tamara Lundgren and the company's proven ability to exploit the pipeline to China with great skill, this 3,000-employee company is in a position of power.

The same can be said about Oregon's one and only big-league sports franchise. Okay, so the Blazers did not fare well last night, but think about the business recovery they've made. By hiring for character and experience as well as raw talent they've made themselves contenders in spite of one injury after another, and they have reinvigorated a brand that needed serious help a few years ago.

To paraphrase the guy in the mud during Monty Python's "bring out your dead" scene: "Not dead yet... I .... feel ... happy!"

Ben Jacklet is managing editor of Oregon Business Magazine.

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