With the summer sun shining high over Portland’s Tom McCall Waterfront Park, throngs of people milled about the grounds in flip-flops and sunglasses holding froth-filled mugs. I was at the 22nd annual Oregon Brewers Festival, curious to find out if people were still willing to spend their hard-earned cash on craft beers.
While admission to the event was free, visitors instead purchased a taster package ranging from $10 to $50 for beer samples or full drinks. But for those in attendance, it was clear that money was no object in their quest to sample the 80 brews available under the wide, roomy tents. Beers from across the country were represented at the festival, but from the conversations I had, a passion for local brews and sharing it with others is what’s keeping the beer economy from running dry, at least in Oregon.
“There’s a real love of the craft brew,” said Ken Baer, co-founder of Portland startup Taplister.com, who was at the festival promoting the company. “‘Craft’ is a perfect word for it. I think people also want to have that sense of community, and in Portland, it seems like the level of pride is going up.”
For the second month in a row, we are scrambling to revise a story about a great local business that has been harder hit than expected by the continuing recession.
Last month it was Pendleton Woolen Mills, a 100-year old Oregon icon that surprised us by announcing that 45 employees would be laid off as we were preparing to put our August issue to bed. This month it’s a local bank to be named later that has been dealing with hard-nosed FDIC regulators scouring through every record, email and report they could unearth. My conversations with the CEO went from fascinating to ominous over the course of the past several weeks, and we agreed that running a story before the matter is clarified with a formal FDIC report would be unwise for the magazine as well as the bank.
Both of these stories were slotted for our Tactics page, where we explore a company and its leaders, what they are facing and how they are proceeding and why. I’m a big fan of the page, because it strives to dig deeper than the usual business profile by shaving off the fluff and honing in on what is crucial. Unfortunately, more and more of these pieces are reflecting the harsh reality that for many businesses, the over-riding goal for 2009 is simply to remain in business. Our research editor Brandon Sawyer quipped the other day that maybe we should rename the page Survival Tactics.
Out of work, out of benefits, wondering what to do? There are resources that can help you start your own business.
Not surprisingly Ben Jacklet’s blogs regarding which Oregon businesses are hiring have proven to be popular, and for good reason. People need jobs. Indeed, not a few folk who have been out of work for some time are starting to get antsy as the period they can receive unemployment benefits starts to dwindle.
So the time is now to start to think about starting your own small business. It need not be an expensive endeavor, nor a full-time one. Even starting a home-based, part-time venture that brings in a couple of hundred dollars a month can make a difference and is the sort of thing that can grow bigger.
The latest round of job losses at the Portland Tribune comes as little surprise to those of us who launched that paper in 2001.
Managing editor Todd Murphy has quit in frustration after learning about a plan for sizable newsroom cuts that he didn't like. In the end the features section was eliminated, two reporters were laid off and one sportswriter was reassigned to the news section. It could have been much worse, and had Murphy not elected to leave, it probably would have been.
A clumsy approach to management and schizophrenic hiring and firing decisions have been par for the course for years at the Trib, which has been shrinking ever since it started up with a rousing speech from the mayor in Pioneer Square, tons of hype and a large pile of money from the man who was then Oregon’s second wealthiest citizen, Robert Pamplin, Jr.
Water – who has it, who wants it, who needs it – is an endless fight in Oregon. Skirmishes were fought in this past session, but a bigger battle looms.
A water bill that was passed by the 2009 Legislature awaits the governor’s signature, and two days ago it was reported that an irrigation districts group sees the bill as a "back door that could easily shut down winter withdrawals" from the Columbia River.
Among other things, HB 3369 establishes a lottery-backed fund for water projects and helps the Water Resources Department to keep working on a long-term water strategy. Proponent WaterWatch called it a landmark water policy bill that would protect fish and rivers, and for the first time places statute protections for peak and ecological water flows. Which is what has the irrigators worried. HB 3369 had a long, winding, interesting journey through the Legislature, including bipartisan leadership.
I was recently playing racquetball with my friend Rick (I won for once, yeah me!) After we were done Rick asked me if I thought that businesses here are more ethical than in other places.
It got me to thinking about an incident that happened to me a few years back.
I owned a hot tub and wanted to sell it. A buyer came over and asked me whether, if she bought it, she could continue to keep it in my back yard for a month until she had her deck finished. No problem.
My first day back from a vacation week at the wind-swept Oregon coast, and I get a brutal tongue-lashing from the spokeswoman for Evraz Inc. North America.
It turns out she didn’t like my timeline detailing the dramatic transformation of Oregon Steel, from an industrial powerhouse employing thousands to a minor cog within a debt-ridden Russian empire. For starters she questioned me on my facts, which came from public records, news stories and company press releases. Then the conversation quckly turned, as such discussions often do, to motives. Before long she had suggested that I was anti-business for writing the piece.
I’m not anti-business. I’m anti-job loss. As anyone who has followed this blog knows, I give credit where it is due. But when a Russian oligarch who really likes big yachts buys a major Oregon employer and a few years later a vital player in the Portland Harbor is hanging on for dear life, I feel compelled to point out a few facts. It’s up to the reader to decide whether or not the facts are relevant.
My husband calls it my electronic boyfriend, and not without a bit of jealousy. Hey! Mind out of the sewer. He’s talking about my iPhone.
I’ve had it for almost two years, and I’m as smitten with it now as when I first brought it home, lifted its slim body from its cradle and forever synced it with my life. It’s a phone with benefits. Even when it treated me very badly (my first two iPhones literally blew up) I never thought of dumping it. Sort of like having a bad Italian boyfriend: beautiful, sexy, unreliable, temperamental. (Phone No. 3 has been more faithful, however.) And, ooh la la, we can go shopping together in the Apple App Store, where I pick out fun new toys to bestow on him. When the husband asks me what I’m doing on my phone all the time, I tell him I’m reading the Economist.
My iPhriend has turned out to be a gateway drug. Because of it, I’ve become almost exclusively electronic in my consumption of entertainment. I still get the daily print copy of The New York Times (because, damn, I can’t let those guys go out of business), and I only like magazines in print format, including my own (because damn, I can’t let us guys go out of business). But all my music comes through iTunes now. I don’t buy CDs anymore. I watch movies on my computer instead of my TV; I never buy DVDs and rarely go out to the movie theater. I get most of my news from websites and radio.
Last week I reported that our own freshman senator Jeff Merkley was doing some good work in sponsoring a bill to help small business. Although there is a lot more Congress could do to help small business (we’ll tackle that one down the road) the good news is that another Oregon lawmaker is looking to pass legislation that will help small business.
Congressman David Wu is the co-sponsor of a bill sailing through Congress, the Enhancing Small Business Innovation and Research Act.
I am often asked if there really is “free money” available for small business startups. The short answer is, not surprisingly, no. But the longer answer is that there is some federal grant money available in very specific cases, due to this program, SBIR.