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.
I know the upcoming Academy Awards hog the spotlight when it comes to a star-studded event oozing with excitement and suspense over who will get the coveted Oscar. But maybe that’s because you haven’t heard about our 100 Best Companies awards.
This year the 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon will be revealed on March 4 at the Oregon Convention Center. For 17 years, Oregon Business has honored those Oregon companies that go the extra mile to create a great place to work for their employees. Rumors are that George Clooney will host.
OK, the Clooney thing's a lie, but it is a fun party with lots of local heroes from the business community being honored.
The $3.6 billion Columbia River Crossing project has much more at stake than improving transportation between Portland and Vancouver. Environmental concerns, economic implications and – of course – costs are pitting state governors against city leaders as they debate the scope and timeline of the historic project. Meanwhile, some local creative minds have ideas of their own.
The Pacific Northwest College of Art is currently hosting “Crossing the Columbia: What Does It Mean?” – a public forum created by the Architecture Foundation of Oregon and PDXplore, and running during select weeks in February and March. As an independent design collective made up of five local designers and architects, PDXplore has worked to examine some of Portland’s more pressing urban design issues over the past few years. Its collaboration with AFO is a forum consisting of discussions, presentations and an ongoing exhibit at the PNCA featuring proposals from the PDXplore members. The exhibit’s purpose: to help the public understand the significance of the proposed CRC and its effects.
The project is in the middle of a tug-of-war between government officials. On one side, the mayors of Portland and Vancouver, Metro President David Bragdon and Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Stuart have all criticized the plan’s “unacceptable” effects on the metro area. The four leaders called for a more thorough review of the plan, but Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski and Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire recently signed a letter saying the project should push forward with no further delays. “The citizens of this region have watched our two states discuss and plan for a new bridge for over 20 years and they expect us to proceed,” the governors said. State highway planners, they said, are already taking into consideration pollution, sprawl and other concerns. Meanwhile, the ports of Portland and Vancouver have also spoken out in support of pushing the project forward.
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