Ben Jacklet

The fortunate few

After spending the previous month delving into all things green, I've shifted my focus back to greenbacks, or lack thereof. More specifically, I have been analyzing the losses and gains of Oregon's most important privately held companies. The big picture, as you may have guessed, looks bleak. But there are some encouraging surprises buried in there as well.

I don't want to give away the results of our annual Private 150 survey, but since that list is ranked by revenues and this blog is devoted to jobs, allow me to tweak the results and offer some insight on who's shrinking and who's expanding.

The largest employers among the companies that participated in our survey (ranked by Oregon jobs) area: Avamere Health Systems, Jeld-Wen, Bimart, Roseburg Forest Products, Les Schwab, Harry & David, Shari's, Swanson Group, R.B. Pamplin Corp and A-dec. Not one of those businesses added jobs in 2008. Jeld-Wen, formerly Oregon's largest privately held employer, shaved 500 jobs, Ron Tonkin chopped 214. Les Schwab cut 206. Roseburg Forest Products eliminated 200. Leatherman Tool Group knifed 117. I'm running out of verbs here, so enough is enough.

Tax breaks for new jobs

I've gotten some nice feedback on my first draft of a top 10 list of Oregon businesses that are hiring and expanding. The biggest response: Hey, put us on the list. We're doing just fine.

That was the message from Portland Energy Conservation, which has 23 job openings in the red-hot field of green building and energy efficiency. This company even has a bounty hunter program that pays $1,000 for successful referrals for hard-to-fill positions such as refrigeration engineers. Who needs rock stars when you have refrigeration engineers?

I also heard from a marketing company out of Bend called G5 Search Marketing that has tripled its employee count since the end of 2007, from 15 to 45. My contact there, Devin Davis, made a strong argument that there is light at the end of the tunnel in Bend, despite its embarrassing position near the top of the list for the nation's highest unemployment rates in metro areas. He reeled off a quick list of companies that are poised to take off there, including GL Suite, Rocketbux and PV Powered.

Who's hot and hiring

With Oregon's unemployment rate hovering at 12%, we all know who is cutting back: pretty much everyone. So who's hiring? Who is going to pull us out of this mess?

We at the magazine are constantly on the prowl for gems of optimism buried beneath the refuse of our state economy. We've found some great quirky success stories: landfills, urban chickens, guns and foreclosures, to name a few.

But quirk will only take you so far. Where are the Oregon companies that will create jobs over the next year? What follows is a first draft of a top 10 list. If I'm missing anyone big or hyping someone unrealistically, call me on it.