Mayors across the country have been throwing themselves in icy waters and shark tanks and renaming their cities, children and ice cream after Google, all in the hopes of getting a free super high-speed broadband network. Portland over the weekend staged a game of Telephone.
This really can’t compete with babies named Google Fiber, though it does have its charms in a PDX geeky kind of way (it was dubbed “Woo the Goog”). The city hoped it would be the world's longest game of Telephone, where a sentence is whispered from one player to the next until the end, when the beginning and ending phrases are compared. Alas, it was nowhere near the crowd needed to break the 2004 record of 614 people. (Official crowd estimates are still to be released, but one early attendee said maybe 50 were there at the start.) At the Saturday event, the first Telephone sentence uttered was: "PDX has the brains and nerve to welcome Google high speed.” The last one, received by an 8-year-old (and who better, I say): "The Internet place is really great."
Who can argue with that, Mr. Google?
It’s been 40 years since the Portland Trail Blazers made their official NBA debut after being purchased for $3.7 million. Decades later, the franchise has powered through several rough patches — from poor seasons to trouble with the law — with its reputation as a beloved Portland brand intact. Now facing the recession, not to mention a wave of injuries, the Trail Blazers are pushing forward and arguably stronger than ever.
Currently in his fifth season at the helm, coach Nate McMillan was among the speakers at a breakfast forum held by the Portland Business Alliance yesterday, along with chief marketing officer Sarah Mensah and senior VP of business affairs J.E. Isaac. In front of a packed room at Portland’s Governor Hotel, the three franchise representatives talked about what’s keeping the Blazers ahead of the sports-business game, and what to expect from a little project called JumpTown.
McMillan spent a good amount of time praising the work ethic of his team, and the Blazers have indeed been playing with a fighting spirit. With Brandon Roy and Greg Oden among the many star players who experienced injuries this year, it’s remarkable that the team has managed to hold up its standing throughout the season. But what’s keeping the brand thriving while other Portland business sectors are still waiting for that rumored recovery?
Like Oregon, New Zealand has about 4 million residents, gorgeous beaches and a large and (let’s face it) obnoxious neighbor intent on dominating the regional economy. If you think Oregonians have a bias against California, try talking to a Kiwi about Australia.
Unlike Oregon, New Zealand has a functioning health care system, a low unemployment rate and no sprawl. The Kiwis didn’t avoid recession, but they did avoid getting creamed by it. Unemployment has spiked to 7.3%, the highest rate there since 1999, but nowhere near the double-digit woes we’ve been wrestling with in Oregon.
I’m no expert on New Zealand, but I liked what I saw during my recent travels there. A lot. Here are a few lessons I’m bringing back to Oregon, for what it’s worth.
The good news about the Portland metro area’s dismal retail scene is that vacancies will rise only slightly this year. The bad news isn’t too hard to figure out: high unemployment will continue to keep the lid on any robust recovery. “The outlook for 2010 is subdued,” says real estate expert Tony Cassie. “We’re starting to come out of it, but we’re not going to really come out of it until job numbers improve.”
And that could take until next year. A recent report by national real estate investment services firm Marcus & Millichap pointed out that employers were expected to only slightly expand payrolls by 1.4% in 2010, adding 13,500 jobs versus the 70,000 that were lost over the past two years. That great destruction of jobs “will keep foot traffic low and delay meaningful leasing activity,” according to the report.
“It’s going to be a challenging environment for retail,” says Cassie, the regional manager of Marcus & Millichap’s Portland office.
There was a time when constantly checking Twitter updates at work would put you on the fast track for disciplinary action. But for many businesses these days, it might actually be advantageous to devote some work time to exploring the potential of social media and how it can help you understand your business, while also keeping an eye on the competition. Scoping out your rivals’ Facebook friends could help more than you think.
That was the message at this year’s SearchFest, the annual conference held by Search Engine Marketing Professionals of Portland (SEMpdx). Speaking before attendees at the spacious Heritage Ballroom in downtown Portland’s Governor Hotel, three industry experts – Brian Carter of Fuel Interactive, Neil Patel of KISSmetrics and Jordan Kasteler of Search & Social – held a seminar on applying competitive intelligence to social media marketing.
Monitoring website traffic on your competitors’ sites, finding out which of their content is shared and bookmarked, seeing who their fans/friends/followers are – they’re all tactics that fall under competitive intelligence, Kasteler says. Checking social media sites to see what people are saying about your company is also a part of the strategy, and more businesses are starting to catch on; 33% of marketers currently use social media to gain competitive intelligence, compared to 21% who use it but not for competitive intelligence. The goal, Carter says, is to see what you can find out using social media to give you an advantage over your competition.
Oregonians are driving less, spending less on food, saving less for retirement and working less compared to their neighbors in Idaho and Washington. As pollster Adam Davis says about his recent findings: “When the economy is bad it tends to be worse in Oregon.”
The results were part of the recently released Northwest OpinionScape report that Davis, Hibbitts & Midghall conducted on behalf of the nonprofit Northwest Health Foundation and the Northwest News Network, a collaboration of public radio stations in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. There were 400 general population respondents in each state. DHM, a Portland opinion research and consulting firm, is also Oregon Business’ longtime partner in the 100 Best project.
The top headline out of the extensive report? “It’s all about the economy right now in Oregon,” says Davis. “Households are being affected across the board.”
Who among us — at least those of us who are “of an age” — has not sat before our computer and watched in bewilderment as it performed, unbidden, some bizarre function we couldn’t understand, couldn’t use and couldn’t correct?
It gave us pause to hear Toyota executives say with certitude that there is nothing wrong with the electronic throttle system of the cars that have experienced unintended acceleration. They said they know because there is no evidence. Despite testimony of an automotive sciences professor that he was able to induce a similar malfunction in the system, the head of sales in the U.S. insisted that this was not a “real world” situation, it wasn’t one that could occur during normal driving activity, and therefore it didn’t amount to evidence. Toyota was sticking to the tangible evidence surrounding the accelerator pedal assembly.
It is possible that we will never know for certain why the often tragic and always terrifying runaway engine incidents happened. In the 1980’s the Audi 5000 was plagued with a spate of runaway accelerations that resulted in injury and death. Audi’s initial and unwise response was to blame the drivers, suggesting that some drivers mistook the accelerator pedal for the brake pedal; the harder they tried to brake the car, the faster it went. The actual cause of the incidents, if they were not driver-initiated, was never found. No evidence. And it is possible the folks at Toyota are right. They are a technically pragmatic lot. The eventual Audi “fix” was to require the driver to press on the brake pedal before the car could be shifted into gear. But public confidence in the brand was lost and Audi sales dropped for a decade before the company regained its place in the high end of the market in the U.S.
Who are the 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon? The 2010 list was revealed last night at a grand party of 700 at the Oregon Convention Center. The envelope, please:
For months we’ve been surveying, crunching, preparing for this moment and the class of 2010 is an amazing group of dedicated employers. We’ve devoted the March issue of Oregon Business to celebrating those great workplaces in our 17th annual edition of the 100 Best Companies. Nearly 20,00 employees from 303 companies participated in the free, anonymous workplace satisfaction survey. This is not a beauty pageant. The satisfaction scores from those surveys are calculated by independent research firm Davis, Hibbitts & Midghall to come up with the 100 Best rankings.
The event last night was frosting on the cake for these 100 companies, who out of sight of the spotlight have spent enormous energy to make their business a place that strives every day to treat their employees with respect, openness and trust. They found large and small ways to tell their workers that they care.
As the 2010 Census rolls around, the U.S. Census Bureau is hitting the road to get citizens to participate. It’s an event that only comes around every 10 years, but it has huge implications for the nation and business, and with more than $400 billion in federal funds on the table for state and local governments, the Census Bureau is hoping people will take the count seriously.
Thirteen vehicles make up the fleet of the 2010 Census Portrait of America Road Tour, the largest of which made a stop in downtown Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square yesterday. Drawing in curious passersby with its 46-foot trailer and entertaining the crowd with live music (despite the misty weather), the event was aimed at helping Portlanders understand every aspect of the census process – how to fill out the 10-question census form, what the information is used for and the benefits of its findings.
People were even invited to share messages with other tour participants across the country in an interactive project explaining why the census is important to their communities. With the vehicles stopping at over 800 events collectively in 1,547 days, the tour is a major outreach effort, and this census also has an advantage that the previous count didn’t have: social media (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, blogs), which the Census Bureau is using substantially to spread awareness about the tour and its mission.
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