Clearly I hit a nerve. Responses to last week’s Jobs Watch column on the alleged-but-not-yet-proven exodus of Oregon businesses from Oregon set new standards for vitriol. Some readers went so far as to suggest that the job I should watch out for is my own. Sorry, guys. Even the most hard-nosed CEOs don’t get to fire other people’s employees.
Well if can dish it out I’d better be able to take it. So swing away and take your best shot. I am here to be pummeled. The point of a free press is to encourage an open and honest discussion of the important issues of the day, and clearly to our readers this is a very important issue. So let’s discuss it openly and honestly.
However, I have to point out that for all of the great and not-so-great responses last week’s column elicited, I still am lacking the name of a single job-creating investor or executive who is in fact leaving Oregon because of Measures 66 and 67.
I’ve never bought a single lottery ticket in my life. Not even a single scratch-off. But if women who live in Lake Oswego (I am, I do) keep winning the $1 million raffle, I might have to rethink my investment strategy.
The latest winner could have been me. Sandy Hendricks last week was the second woman from Lake Oswego in three years to win the million-dollar Oregon Lottery Raffle. Hendricks, who won the St. Patrick’s Day Raffle, told reporters she is in her early 50s (I am) and has Irish grandparents (I do). "You know, I've never played a raffle before," Hendricks told the Oregonian (ditto). "I bought a ticket because I like leprechauns, I guess."
Well, I don’t like leprechauns (frankly, they creep me out). I don’t believe in luck, or at least I don’t believe that I’m lucky, so I’ve never seen the purpose in buying games of chance.
The Sellwood Bridge is deteriorating as questions arise over whether Multnomah County or Clackamas County is responsible for its replacement. The approval of funding for the Newberg-Dundee bypass is being criticized as a political maneuver. And the fate of the Columbia River Crossing remains unknown while the debate over its size, impact and whether it should even be built keeps its progress in limbo. In other words, the Portland area’s regional transportation governance is a big, gridlocked mess.
The City Club of Portland recently released a report titled “Moving Forward: A Better Way to Govern Regional Transportation.” Several members of the research committee – Leigh Stephenson-Kuhn, Peter Livingston and Richard Ross – presented the report this week as part of the “Crossing the Columbia: What Does It Mean?” forum held by PDXplore and the Architecture Foundation of Oregon. In front of a small crowd at the Pacific Northwest College of Art, the three representatives discussed the conclusions and recommendations the City Club had come up with to solve the tricky problem of moving people at the lowest cost and in the most effective way possible.
What’s tangling up transportation progress so much? The report found several problems with the current regional governance, such as the Oregon Department of Transportation’s control of most of the region’s transportation money (which gives the power to choose and fund projects primarily to state officials). A large chunk of the problem, the report says, also lies in the fragmentation of governance, with federal, state and local government and agencies all having an influence on transportation projects in the area. With so many jurisdictions with a stake in transportation, the result is a lack of clarity on which entity should be responsible for which parts of the system. Many decisions are made on a micro level, Livingston says, when transportation is really a regional issue.
The Oregonian took the unusual step this morning of running a front-page business story about an unnamed executive, CEO of “a successful technology company southwest of Portland employing hundreds and boasting a bright future.”
Was he unnamed because he is participating in the witness protection program?
Hardly. He’s thinking of skipping town.
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.
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