Blogs

Your Business: Getting started in e-commerce

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.

Basically, it is a seven-step process.

Editor's Notes: Progress in The Dalles

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.

The OB Poll: Kitzhaber "bad for biz"

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.

There had been a lot of speculation about whether he would run. After he announced, he said in one interview that he wanted to continue the state’s efforts to attract green businesses if elected. But more specifics about how he would tackle the state’s economic woes and help hard-hit businesses have yet to be seen.

Jobs Watch: The recession is over. Sort of.

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.

Editor's Notes: Saying goodbye to Bob

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 leaders filled 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.

On The Scene: Global food for thought

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 OB Poll: Some good economic news

More than half of the respondents in this week’s poll bring a bit of good economic news: they say that their company is holding steady against the hard winds of the downturn and some of them even plan to hire.

Just a small percentage say that they are gearing up to fire workers, which may be proof that the reports that we’ve reached bottom are true.

According to the Associated Press, companies are laying off fewer workers as the U.S. economy shows consistent signs that the recession is over. The Federal Reserve said this week that 11 of its 12 regional banks reported the economy is stabilizing, an improvement from previous reports.

Editor's Notes: Business, books and blather

A recent afternoon in the business book section at Powell's reaffirmed my belief that you can tell the mood of the nation by current titles: How the Mighty Fall; House of Cards; Fool’s Gold. My beloved pundits are great Monday morning quarterbacks, but didn’t see the ball coming until it whacked them in the nose. Nice work, fellows! I’d give you $30 of my hard-earned money but I can’t because I, and the nation, agree with you: Everyone’s a crook!

Moving down the book aisles, I found that as a woman I have a few issues to work out that I hadn’t yet come to terms with. Diane Sawyer (nationally touted as “63 and still gorgeous!”) promises me in her blurb for Womenomics that it’s a "personal, provocative and challenging book for career women who want less guilt, more life." Gorgeous needs to fix her life? I’m in!

With the authors’ help, I will be able to demand the balance that’s been missing in my life; stop fighting the old gender wars and use my power to negotiate, say no and damn it all, stop feeling crappy about it, not to mention getting over the guilt I feel about hating Diane. I immediately felt guilty about despising books that suppose women have been victims most of their life and then ask them to spend $28 to get out of the mess. I decided not to buy this book, and I didn't feel guilty. Golly, working already!

Jobs Watch: Something's burning in Burns

Something was burning in Burns, and it smelled awful. Turns out the town dump was on fire: Black smoke was spewing forth from a privately operated landfill loaded with treated wood, plastics and fiberglass from the RV manufacturing plant.

This was the last thing I wanted to breathe in on a sweet morning last Thurdsay in Harney County, where fewer than 8,000 people populate 10,000 square miles of high desert and pine forest. You expect dust storms, sagebrush, weather-beaten pickup trucks, barbed wire, dried up lakes, bullet holes in the road signs. But burning fiberglass?

The locals weren’t too happy about it, either. The smell served as an acrid reminder of the latest industry to leave town. Bankrupt Monaco Coach, which employed 6,500 people as recently as 2006, was in the last stages of shutting down its local operation, with its final day of operations set for Friday. The closure of the Monaco plant leaves Harney County with basically no manufacturing jobs. That’s a harsh reality to accept in a town that once had one of the busiest lumber mills in the world.