The state’s new revenue forecast is out, and the findings are not pretty: nine consecutive quarters (and counting) of year-over-year job loss, surprisingly poor numbers in the professional services, financial and retail sectors and looming public sector cuts as backlash spreads over government spending. Housing starts are down, retail sales are sluggish and consumer confidence is understandably low. The Oregon job market is not expected to improve significantly until the fourth quarter of 2011.
There aren’t a lot of counties in Oregon with unemployment rates lower than the national average, but there are three of them in the Columbia River Gorge. Even as the state's economy has stagnated, the awesome rise of the robot plane pioneer Insitu as an aerospace powerhouse and other positive developments have done wonders for communities on both sides of the river, especially in the vicinity of Hood River.
The last time I spoke with Sid DeBoer, his two key suppliers, GM and Chrysler, had recently declared bankruptcy and his company, Lithia Motors, was recovering from its worst year ever. But he had a plan to turn things around. A year and a half later, it seems to be working.
Can a state agency create jobs without wasting taxpayer money? Business Oregon is trying to do exactly that with its new BOOST program. The program approved its first two grants this week, and if you measure such things by jobs promised per dollar invested, this initiative would seem to have potential.
I got the opportunity to sit down with Matt Nees and Bryce Yonker the other day, and within an hour my story idea list had doubled in size. There’s a lot going on with tech innovation in Oregon, and Nees, who’s been president of the Software Association of Oregon for about a year now, and his colleague Yonker have a sharp inside view of not only what’s happening, but also what’s coming.
My conference call with two Jive Software executives on Monday was quite a workout. It isn’t easy to type in synch with people so excited about their prospects that they can barely complete a sentence without flinging out phrases like “ awesome growth trajectory,” “totally stoked” and (avert your eyes now) “kicking ass and taking names.”
Sohrab Vossoughi is a great person to call if you’re running short on ideas. The high-energy CEO of Ziba Design specializes in big ideas delivered with enthusiasm, and his latest, the Portland Center for Innovation and Design, merits a closer look.
For more than 30 years, Oregon Business has ranked the state’s top 150 private companies by revenue. This year’s results are in, and they are not encouraging. 2009 was one of the worst years ever for the state’s most important private sector employers — if not the worst.
Nike is hiring again in Beaverton after a turbulent recessionary run punctuated by a 5% downsizing last May. The company has posted openings in information technology, operations, human resources, communications and the House of Hoops, has just hired a new Chief Learning Officer and is sprinting into a new fiscal year with momentum and focus.
Metro regional government leaders have operated for years on the belief that economic development and jobs are not part of their mission. Should they be? Tom Hughes believes they should be. Could his approach to creating jobs as mayor of Hillsboro work on a regional level?
Allow me to introduce our new web reporter, Jessica Hoch. Her first news story for Oregon Business looks at a fresh piece of federal legislation with unusually strong bipartisan support, the Green Railcar Enhancement Act. This bill could be just what Portland-based railcar manufacturer Gunderson needs after more than two years of cutbacks.
Congressman David Wu has been working behind the scenes for more than a year with utility executives, green building experts and university leaders to boost federal support for green building innovations in Oregon. The $129 million proposal that has emerged from that work could build a sustainable foundation for an industry that stands out as one of the state’s few bright spots.
Between the endless Oregon drizzle, the unpredictable financial markets and the seemingly unstoppable flood of crude oil gushing forth from the ocean floor, it’s been a rough month for morale — and for the planet. So it’s refreshing to step back from the headlines and pay respect to some forward-thinking businesses and nonprofits that are doing things right.
Google made a rare and very un-Google-like public appearance yesterday in Southeast Portland. It was interesting to see a company that has brilliantly reinvented so many things over the past decade playing the role of a typical business, hobnobbing with economic development officials, handing out free pens and notebooks and boasting about economic impact. Then again, $512 million worth of economic impact in Oregon is a phenomenon worth boasting about.
Ever since I was a kid calculating my batting average in between pitches, I’ve always loved numbers. I relish a fresh stack of statistics, and that’s exactly what we have between the new jobs figures and the election results. Are there lessons to be learned from these numbers? I believe there are.
No, Tim Boyle is NOT moving Columbia Sportswear to Chicago or anywhere else. His notoriously tough mother, Gert, isn't going anywhere either. As for his first grandchild (her first great-grandchild), the Boyle plan is to keep him in Oregon as well, or more specifically, to create a future Oregon so full of opportunity that he won't want to live anywhere else.
Gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley told a roomful of business leaders at a recent forum that he would protect their interests over those of an "out of state energy company" seven days a week. His point is well taken, given the well-documented abuses of tax credits by some of these outsiders. But some of the best jobs news coming out of Oregon can be attributed to energy companies based far out of state.
In the best of times, it isn't unusual for talented young interns to work their way into a full time job or, failing that, get snagged by a competitor. In the worst of times, they search and search for something, anything resembling full time work — and eventually move to places like San Francisco, reinforcing the message that Oregon may be a nice place to live, but there are no jobs here.
Allen Alley and Chris Dudley are both running for governor on a platform of cutting government spending, improving Oregon’s business climate and creating jobs in the private sector. They have many ideas in common. They also have their differences.
For starters, there is the first impression they give. Dudley isn’t just tall; he is huge, to the point where it seems like there is an exceedingly far distance for his thoughts to travel before he can articulate them with his Connecticut Yankee accent. His responses come out slow and measured, putting him at a distinct disadvantage at any forum involving a stopwatch. But anyone who writes off this 16-year veteran of the National Basketball Association as a dumb jock or a figurehead is not paying attention. Dudley is a Yale graduate who fiercely represented the NBA players’ association and went straight from basketball to philanthropy and business, serving as executive VP for Portland-based M Financial, one of the state’s largest private companies by gross revenue. He may not be winning the debates but he has been winning the fundraising race, and that could prove more important.
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.