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Jobs Watch: Integra promises no layoffs | Print |  Email
Ben Jacklet
Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Maybe you’ve heard the one about the fast-rising Portland company that got snapped up in a “loan-to-own” deal that’s becoming increasingly commonplace as the vultures circle. Maybe you read it last week in this blog, under the category of bad news.

Dudley Slater, CEO of Integra Telecom (one of Oregon’s most successful private companies over the past decade, 700 jobs statewide), took exception to my characterization of his company’s efforts to restructure its debt. In his view, the deal is good news because it cuts Integra’s debt in half and sets a course for growth. But rather than paraphrase his perspective, allow me to print an excerpt from our hour-long conversation Tuesday morning at Integra’s corporate headquarters in Northeast Portland, edited for clarity and brevity.

 
Editor's Notes: Scenes from a workforce | Print |  Email
Robin Doussard
Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Snippets of dialogue from my screenplay for a coming-of-age film I'm calling The Community College Graduate:

Businessman: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Disaffected graduate: Yes, sir.

Businessman: Are you listening?
Disaffected graduate: Yes, I am.
Businessman: Welding.

With apologies to Dustin Hoffman and that other iconic coming-of-age movie, The Graduate, it’s obvious that plastics is no longer the killer career answer it once was. This brilliance came to me after I recently had coffee with Dana Haynes, a spokesman for Portland Community College. I first met Dana three years ago when he was the only non-female invited to a leadership conference for young women. Three years later, he continues to be the only non-female invited, which I think speaks well of his inner qualities. He’s also a former journalist and full of enthusiasm and great tips about what his college is doing. Like welding.

 
The OB Poll: Clunkers program crashes | Print |  Email
Poll wrap-up
Friday, August 14, 2009

This week's poll asking about the cash for clunkers program closes out with the majority voting that the federal program is a waste of money. The second most-popular opinion is that the program at least is better than cash for bankers.

Seems the ire toward the financial sector hasn't cooled, even though pundits are saying they see the end of the recession.

Consumer groups are also on the case. They've called on the Department of Transportation to crack down on dealerships offering questionable sales terms to customers participating in the program.

 
On The Scene: Businesses try on Twitter | Print |  Email
On the Scene
Wednesday, August 12, 2009

People from all walks of business packed a casual luncheon Tuesday on the second floor of Portland's Bridgeport Brewpub + Bakery. Business cards were swapped left and right, but the focus of the lunch had more to do with the laptops and smart phones lying on the tables than straight-up networking.

The Oregon chapter of the American Marketing Association was holding a “Tweetshop," a workshop designed to help companies use Twitter to its fullest potential. On hand to school the eager learners were digital strategists David Veneski of Intel and Alex Williams of eROI.

The stats brought up during the workshop spoke volumes about the astounding growth of Twitter this year: The site jumped over 131 percent in unique visitors from February to March and reached 23 million unique visitors in June, surpassing the mighty New York Times website and catching up to CNN.com. With such a large user base, networking is easy; Veneski talked about connections he made simply by following people on Twitter. “It’s pretty interesting," Veneski said. "You get access to people you normally wouldn't be able to [reach].” Plus, with users frequently "re-tweeting" other people's posts, Veneski said information can quickly go viral no matter how big your follower base is.

 
Jobs Watch: There's good news, and there's bad news | Print |  Email
Ben Jacklet
Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: One of Oregon’s most successful private companies in recent years, Integra Telecom, is on the verge of changing hands under less than ideal circumstances. A front-page story about a sharp increase in “distressed takeovers” in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal reported that Integra is being forced to turn over ownership to Tennenbaum Capital Partners LLC following a barrage of “hardball tactics” deployed by the debtholder.

In the story, Integra CEO Dudley Slater is quoted as saying, “Life is always better when you have options and in this case, we didn’t have any options.”

That’s bad news for Integra, which earned $684 million in revenues last year and employs 2,300 people including 550 in Oregon. Companies that get taken over by private equity firms don’t always suffer massive job cuts shortly thereafter, but it comes as no surprise when they do.

 
Editor's Notes: Clunkers at work | Print |  Email
Robin Doussard
Monday, August 10, 2009

Doussard Family Industries (DFI) called an emergency executive session this weekend to discuss whether the company should participate in the cash for clunkers program.

As CEO, president, vice president, treasurer, secretary and bookkeeper, I wanted to get the operation manager’s input. He is, after all, in charge of all car maintenance and upkeep, buying gas and finding a parking space. Although he is not authorized to make car purchases (or any purchases, for that matter) without executive signature, I do like to make him feel like a part of the team. He’s been with the company 31 years and we at DFI value his loyal service, if not his attitude.

At issue was the company vehicle: a 12-year-old F150 that gets 12 miles to the gallon. (According to recent reports, it’s one of the top vehicles traded in the program.) It’s an environmental embarrassment, not to mention a style disaster, and lord knows it qualifies as a clunker. I was thinking that if we could take the $4,500 offered in the federal program to upgrade to something more appropriate for executive use, now was the time to consider it. (I've commissioned a poll for further input.)

 
Your Business: Show us the money | Print |  Email
Steve Strauss
Monday, August 10, 2009

Where do you go if you need some money for your business? Home equity is no longer a solution and credit cards can be a poor one. SBA lending, though better, is still not great. So what do you do?

Given the current state of the credit markets, it was no surprise to read in the Oregonian that “dozens of small-business owners crowded into a downtown meeting room [last] Tuesday to tell U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader that federal efforts to stimulate the economy have skipped over them” and that something must be done to make more money available to responsible small business owners. (Schrader is the chairman of the House Small Business Committee's subcommittee on finance and tax.)

Indeed, a recent opinion piece in the Statesman Journal nailed it: “If Congress and the Obama administration want to get the economy going, they must get money flowing to small businesses. That hasn't happened.”

 
The OB Poll: Tax credits get support | Print |  Email
Poll wrap-up
Thursday, August 06, 2009

The results are in for our poll on the governor's support of Business Energy Tax Credits, and it looks like the majority of you think the governor is right on track for championing the program.

The tax credits are offered to those who invest in renewable energies, alternative fuels and conservation. The credit – 35 percent of the eligible project costs – can cover any costs directly related to the project, from equipment to installation. Gov. Kulongoski is a strong advocate of the program and today vetoed HB 2472, a piece of legislation that would cut down the credits. The governor believes rolling them back would hurt green-job creation, and a good amount of OB readers agreed.

Yet others cite the negatives of a program they perceive to be overly charitable and think Kulongoski should reconsider his veto. Some say the program's subsidizing of wind developments that sell power to California decreases Oregon's self-reliance and energy efficiency, for instance.

 
Job Watch: Wading in the shallow end | Print |  Email
Ben Jacklet
Wednesday, August 05, 2009

I don’t know about you, but my neighborhood pool has been a bit over-crowded lately, closer to human stew than the Mediterranean. I’ve spent quite a few evenings there over the past week, soaking in shallow water while the kids swim free, catching up on what the parents have to say about their jobs — or former jobs.

Not surprisingly, I’ve heard some grim stuff: 60-hour work weeks cut down to a trickle, law firms giving up on a decent recovery until somewhere in 2010, newcomers with advanced degrees and great ideas getting nowhere with their job searches.

It’s enough to make you wonder if the economy — and the pools for that matter — might be more appealing elsewhere. But then the other day I wandered into a shallow-end conversation that gave me a completely different impression. I had met Prashant before through the usual stuff, tennis and kids and so forth, but we had never really talked. What I didn’t know is that he’s held executive positions with local firms like Tripwire and Fios; he’s launched a start-up and business is pouring in faster than he can handle it. His partner is a lawyer who lives across the street, and he says that tons of people from his neighborhood are seizing on the momentary lull to build new businesses. As you might expect, he’s got a substantially brighter view of the current trend towards frugality, because it is creating exactly the sort of environment he needs to convince companies to take a chance on his value proposition.

 
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