Portland’s Pioneer Square was buzzing with excitement last week over the three-wheeled contraption being backed out a U-Haul. Eugene-based Arcimoto was premiering its new Pulse electric vehicle, and legislators and promoters were on hand to praise the machine’s benefits to both Oregon and the green industry. Mayor Sam Adams even revealed that the machine was helping him win an ongoing electric-car competition between himself and San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom.
But to some, it wasn’t just the premiere of an electric car. I overheard one attendee telling another, “This is not a car. It’s a revolution.”
The debut of the Pulse had curious citizens and reporters swarming Portland’s living room, snapping photos of the strange-looking vehicle that looked like it was plucked straight out of sci-fi fantasy. Businesspeople were talking excitedly about the implications of the new car, and Adams even got to sit in it. It was a warm reception for Arcimoto’s brainchild, which the startup had been working on since it was founded in 2007.
Oregon is home to over 338,000 small businesses, a mighty sector that makes up a substantial majority of the state’s employers – 97.8% according to the latest data from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy. But it’s no secret that small businesses have taken a severe economic beating. Will people still be willing to put everything on the line to get that coffee shop or craft store up and running? And how are existing businesses getting by?
Some say the economy is improving, so I stopped by the Oregon Small Business Fair this past weekend to see if things were brightening up on the small-business side as well. Plenty of folks were eager to spend their rainy Saturday inside the Oregon Convention Center’s spacious halls, taking advantage of the free all-day event sponsored by local government and business organizations. Attendees had a wealth of resources available to them, from free seminars and consultations to information booths from groups like Portland General Electric, Women Entrepreneurs of Oregon and the City of Portland Revenue Bureau.
Also being represented at the fair was the Portland chapter of SCORE Counselors to America’s Small Business, a nonprofit operating out of the SBA and staffed by volunteers with small-business experience. Counselors Janet Livesay and Terry Jones were on hand to offer the organization’s services to small-business owners at the fair or people thinking about starting a business. They both agreed that the recession hasn’t necessarily put a damper on the volume of businesses getting launched. “Because people are losing their jobs, some of them are turning to their entrepreneurial side and considering business,” Jones said.
Anyone who believes that the hemp industry is best left to the half-baked stoners of the world should spend a few hours talking textiles with Ken Barker. Five minutes into the conversation it becomes clear that this guy is onto something big, and he knows exactly what he is doing.
Barker recently served as head of apparel at Adidas North America in Portland. Before that he held executive positions with Adidas and Levi Strauss in Canada. He knows how hard it is for apparel companies to meet the rising demand for clothing from earth-friendly sources. When he was with Adidas he entertained proposals to make fabric from soy, bamboo, even seaweed. None of them made as much sense as hemp, the plant that once served as the backbone of U.S. industry before it was banned in the 1930s.
Barker and another former Adidas executive, David Howitt (a brain behind the success of Oregon Chai), run an investment firm in Northwest Portland called the Meriwether Group. They have two hemp companies in their portfolio. Living Harvest, which makes hemp milk, is one of the fastest growing companies in Oregon. Naturally Advanced Technologies, the company Barker has run since 2006, recently raised more than $900,000 and plans to get its product to market within six months.
Steve: I read your previous column where you suggest that if business is slow in my area (and it is) we should consider getting into e-commerce. I like that idea, but I’m not sure how to start, and I’m not sure what to sell. Thoughts? — Deanna
Deanna: You bet. In fact, I recently did a webinar at AT&T called E-Commerce Essentials that explains the process of creating an e-store and selling online.
I’ve reported on the city of The Dalles for several years and marvel at the patience and perseverance those folks have for the arduous process of remaking their downtown, a hard-by-the-rails hodge-podge of discount stores and small boutiques; part beautifully restored historic buildings and part eyesores.
The town was cut off from the Columbia River when I-84 was built decades ago, and city officials have ambitious plans to turn the town back around to face the river that include a second highway underpass; completion of a riverfront trail; restoration of historic buildings; and upgrading the look of First, Third and Fourth streets.
More than two years ago I wrote about how the much-heralded arrival of a Google server farm belied the decades of hard work and planning that kept the town moving forward despite its boom-bust cycle that started with the aluminum downturn in the ’80s. The town also struggles with historically high unemployment, high poverty rates and low wages. And this recession has been as brutal to them as anyone.
Our poll this week asking if John Kitzhaber would be good or bad for business showed that he’s got some work to do to woo the business vote. Kitzhaber, 62, was governor of Oregon for two consecutive terms from 1995-2003. He threw his hat back into the ring a few weeks ago.
Before becoming a politician, he was a practicing emergency room doctor, and in recent years has been working for health reform, founding the Archimedes Movement.
Ben Bernanke said it, so it must be true: The recession is over. Why am I not feeling relieved? For starters, Oregon’s new jobless numbers are out, and they are worse than ever. Unemployment has more than doubled over the past year.
Construction jobs are down 16.3% year over year. Manufacturing jobs are down 15.2%. Professional and business services are down 8.7%. Even government jobs have dropped. There may be signs of rebirth hidden somewhere in these figures, but I’m not seeing them.
Meanwhile, projects that had me thinking optimistic thoughts about Oregon’s future are fizzling out. Amazon is backing away from its plan to build a server farm in Boardman. Vestas appears to be waffling on its earlier promise to building a new headquarters building in Portland. Once mighty Tektronix is being forced by its parent company to move jobs from Beaverton to Shanghai.
When his son took the stage at the beginning of the “Party for Bob” last night, he spoke clearly and strongly, but the son’s voice could not keep from faltering at times as he remembered his father. What child could hold steady saying such a goodbye?
Erik Gerding’s dad might have helped build a city, but first and before all that, he was a beloved father, husband and granddad.And so this public memorial for him was a very private one. It didn’t celebrate the Brewery Blocks he helped build, the green revolution he helped spark, or even the theater that bears his name and bore witness to his goodbye. Those tributes had been paid.
No. This memorial was for Bob Gerding’s family, who filled the first row of the Gerding Theater in dowtown Portland, as the business, civic and political leadersfilled the rest of the auditorium. The family had invited the community to share in their deeply personal memories of Bob, who died Aug. 18 at the age of 71 after a long battle with cancer.
Deciding whether to take your food product into the global market could have more at stake than just the success of your company. It could also be a matter of making Oregon the fulcrum of the Pacific Rim, or holding the state back as “California’s Canada.”
Jeff Deiss, business and cooperative program director of USDA Rural Development Oregon, jokingly kicked off a presentation Friday with these comparisons, but the point was clear: Oregon is at an important crossroads to take advantage of global food-market opportunities. The presentation, “Emerging Global Food Markets: Opportunities and Challenges for Oregon,” was a talk by Tom Reardon of Michigan State University, an expert on international food trends. Nearly 100 people packed the World Trade Center auditorium in downtown Portland, and as the country commemorated the eighth anniversary of 9/11, Deiss pointed out that it was an appropriate time to discuss how Oregon can contribute its resources to help create a more integrated global economy.
Reardon was fresh from a months-long visit to India, just one of the many places he’s visited that has given him a unique perspective on food trends. His biggest observation: The massive growth of emerging markets, primarily in Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe, whose incomes and economies have grown so rapidly over the past decades that they essentially added 1 billion middle-class consumers to the market. What’s more, the food market in these emerging areas is growing 500% to 700% faster than the U.S. market. “I’m going to argue that the emerging markets will be the centerpiece of your thinking in 10 or 15 years, because they’ll be the main market in the world,” Reardon said.
The New Yorker recently published a sharply worded critique of “disruptive innovation,” one of the most widely cited theories in the business world today. The article raises questions about the descriptive value of disruption and innovation — whether the terms are mere buzzwords or actually explain today's extraordinarily complex and fast changing business environment.
Update: We caught up with Portland's Thomas Thurston, who shared his data driven take on the disruption controversy.
Back in May, we shared a common Wall Street quote about investing, “Sell in May and go away.” Fast forward to July and the most common question we have been getting from clients is, “When is the market pullback going to occur?”
The Office of Economic Analysis announced that Oregon is currently enjoying the strongest job growth since 2006. While this resurgence has been welcome, the lingering effects of the 2008 “Great Recession” continues to affect Oregon businesses, especially with regard to estate planning and business succession.
Lane Powell Shareholder William T. Patton has been appointed to the board of directors for Cascade AIDS Project, an organization that provides educational services and outreach to thousands of Oregonians living with HIV/AIDS.
Fifty-one Lane Powell lawyers were recently selected by their peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America® (Best Lawyers) 2015; of those selected, 23 lawyers are from the Firm’s office in Portland, Oregon.