Blogs

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.

Your Business: It's time to get schooled

The kids here in Portland go back to school today, and with my youngest starting high school, it occurred to me that some of the advice we routinely give our children could just as easily be given to each other.

Isn’t the following true for your small business? It is for mine.

The OB Poll: Pronto Pup wins by a mile

It wasn’t much of a contest. The classic Pronto Pup corn dog whupped all other rivals for your favorite junk food at the Oregon State Fair.

The fair closes this weekend, so last chance to head to Salem to clog your arteries, and last chance to decide between the deep-fried Twinkie or the Monster Curly Fry Brick. Burp.

On The Scene: Making workspace work

So you’re setting up your team’s workspace. You can choose to go the cube farm route, or you can keep the space wide open (like our editorial department here at Oregon Business). You can even set up something temporary in a communal lunch area. Does the environment really make a difference?

Turns out it does, particularly when it comes to encouraging teamwork and collaboration.

Gretchen Anderson, director of interaction design at San Francisco agency Lunar Design, gave a presentation Wednesday night for members of the Computer-Human Interaction Forum of Oregon (CHIFOO) — a jovial audience of nearly 40 designers and architects gathering at the University of Oregon’s White Stag Block in Portland’s Old Town. Although the talk was clearly geared toward the design community — I’ll admit, she initially lost me on the “positive and negative space” concepts — Anderson offered up some qualities of good “war rooms” that businesses of any trade can establish.

Jobs Watch: Prineville pines for opportunity

At the corner of Olde Iron Street and Northwest Harwood in Prineville, in front of not-quite-finished housing development, there’s a big sign that reads, “Community First Bank: Re-investing 100% of our local deposits back in Central Oregon. That’s what a REAL community bank does.”

Unfortunately, that strategy didn’t work out real well for Community First, which was seized by regulators in Prineville on Aug. 8. Growth in Central Oregon has been a good bet for the past decade, but that boom has gone bust, and no community has been hit harder than blue-collar Prineville.

Unemployment in Crook County in July was a seasonally adjusted 18.7%, down from an abysmal 22.4% in June but still the highest in Oregon. In addition to the failure of the local bank, Prineville has suffered the closure of its biggest lumber mill (formerly run by Ochoco Lumber), the loss of the corporate headquarters for the billion-dollar Les Schwab tire empire and the anti-climatic fizzling of several ambitious home-on-the-range residential developments.

Editor's Notes: All's fair in love and wurst

By the Numbers

It is, I will admit, a guilty pleasure, this love of exotic poultry, small swine and giant vegetables. I wait each year for my fix: a kitsch junkie desperate for just one more cake decorated to look like Mt. Hood.

Yes, the Oregon State Fair in Salem is finally back, and like any fair maniac, I had to get there on opening weekend this past Sunday, dragging the husband behind me. He’s weird. He doesn’t like the fried food, rigged games, throw-up rides or cakes shaped like Oregon. But he does like the Poultry House and baby pigs. It's enough to build a marriage on.

The fair, which turns 146 this year, has been slowly sprucing itself up over the past few years. Connie Bradley, acting director of the fair, says in the past two years they’ve torn down the old 4-H dorm and a few other decrepit buildings; reroofed the barns; and "painted — a lot." Oregon State University is preserving the windows at the Poultry House, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. And they've also beefed up the concert series.

The OB Poll: Schools should get lottery priority

The majority of our voters in this week’s poll on video lottery profits say that the money made from the lottery should go to fund schools, period.

Lottery officials are debating whether to cut the share of money kept by establishments with video lottery. Last year, the lottery paid on average $71,000 to bars and taverns.

Some call the payout a tavern welfare program and want the money to go to schools, which are chronically underfunded in Oregon. Educations advocates say the proceeds going to bars and taverns should be reduced and that the retailers are being paid too much.

On The Scene: The future of M&A

The turnout was small at Intel Capital’s Jones Farm campus in Hillsboro, but the topic at hand was a massive one. Sixteen people sat in on a panel discussion this week called “Mergers and Acquisitions: Navigating the M&A Landscape,” helmed by three professionals well traveled in M&A territory.

The discussion was part of this year’s Silicon Forest Technology and Financial Forum (formerly two separate events), and as the panelists shared their unique perspectives on M&A today, there was no denying that technology transactions have hit rough waters in this economy. Is there an end in sight to the bleak picture? It’s hard to tell.

Although Intel is looking at some expansion areas, including graphics and visual computing, its M&A director, John Zdrodowski, said the company’s general financial discipline over the past few years — the belt-tightening and restructuring done in response to the downturn — is here to stay. Budgets at Intel are tight and head counts are flat, so any acquisitions the company makes have to make absolute financial sense. And Intel is also cutting back on divestitures. “That’s mostly behind us,” Zdrodowski said. “There may be some in the future, but fewer than past years.”

Jobs Watch: Down to the wire in Roseburg

For years, it has been a point of pride within Roseburg’s business community to raise $100,000 through the annual duck race to fight child abuse in the community. This year was no different — except of course this year IS different if you’re talking money.

Normally the duck race fundraiser goes right down to the wire and Roseburg’s civic boosters are called on to dig out the final 10% during the final days. But this year they weren’t even close — only $56,000 had been raised, with one week left.

Enter Neil Hummel, who has been in the real estate business in Douglas County for 36 years. He got out his Rolodex and got to work, and by the end of the week the goal was reached.