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State is clueless on taxes | Print |  Email
Steve Strauss
Friday, June 12, 2009

News that the Oregon Senate passed two bills to raise almost $1 billion in revenue simply reinforces the conclusion that when it comes to taxes, especially business taxes, this state is clueless.

The new tax increase is the proverbial good news/bad news. The good news for small business especially, is that the tax is designed to effect individuals making more than $250,000 a year, and large corporations. Indeed, Senate majority leader Richard Devlin specifically stated that “This legislation protects the middle class by ensuring that households making less than $250,000 a year will not pay any additional taxes and it protects small businesses by focusing the increase on large corporations.”

Look, no one likes paying taxes, but it is equally true that 1) we are in a bad economy and revenue is drying up faster than ink at a newspaper, and 2) in a civilized society, we all have to pony up and pay our joint bills — for schools, roads, etc.

 
Signs of life? | Print |  Email
Ben Jacklet
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
One of our super-talented interns is leaving us, and we hate to see her go, but I have to say I like the circumstances. She was on her second internship with us. The first time she left us because she was hired by a promising young company. Then she came back, after getting her hours drastically reduced at her new job amid fears the business would have to shut down entirely.

Turns out her company isn't going under. They're boosting her hours and expanding her responsibilities to keep up with new orders. And they aren't the only ones climbing out of the abyss. Banks are paying back their TARP loans, markets are rebounding powerfully, the clean tech sector is taking off and even Oregon's Index of Economic Indicators is showing signs of life, finally. Clean energy jobs grew by 50 percent in Oregon from 1998 to 2007. This doesn't counter the losses in timber and manufacturing, but it helps. My last six face-to-face interviews have been with two CEOs, an Intel Fellow, a consumer watchdog, and a federally appointed administrator, and not one of them mentioned the economy in ominous terms. That wouldn't have been the case a few months ago; what else was there to talk about then?

A year ago I was feeling more pessimistic than your average bear; now I've got the opposite feeling. The change might have something to do with my quest to find companies that plan to add jobs rather than subtract them over the coming year and beyond. Recent nominees include Bend's PV Powered, which scored another round of financing this week, Portland's Stalk Market, which may have solved the puzzle of the biodegradable coffee cup lid (hello? Starbucks?), the fast-growing flash video producer AngelVision and Chinese battery and car company BYD.

 
What would Susan do? | Print |  Email
Robin Doussard
Monday, June 08, 2009

Legendary wine pioneer and sustainability advocate Susan Sokol Blosser, co-founder of
Sokol Blosser Winery, recently issued a provocative challenge to Oregon businesses.

“What if, instead of trying to return to the old system, we create a new one?” she asked the audience of nearly 300 at our recent celebration of the 100 Best Green Companies to Work For in Oregon. “Economic recovery doesn’t have to mean we return to over-spending, over-production, over-consumption and planned obsolescence. If we simply return to where we were, we’ll keep repeating the same growth and crash cycle. Can we revise our mindset and acknowledge that we’re moving into a world of scarcity to which we must adjust? Can we move from an ‘all you can eat’ and ‘bigger is better’ mentality to ‘quality over quantity’ and ‘small is beautiful?’’’

That’s a provocative question for Oregon businesses that, like most, measure success by how much they grow in revenue, employees, unit output or customers. Oregon Business magazine itself each year ranks the top 150 private companies in the state by revenue and analyzes who’s up and who’s down. Nearly every chamber in the state gives out annual growth awards to those companies that have grown their employee count and bottom line.

 
Small biz sweet spots | Print |  Email
Steve Strauss
Friday, June 05, 2009

Want to make your small business greener, but, like so many of us, have neither the time nor the bandwidth to focus on it? Then check out Portlander Scott Ankeny’s great site, www.GoingGreenToday.com.

 
The fortunate few | Print |  Email
Ben Jacklet
Wednesday, June 03, 2009

After spending the previous month delving into all things green, I've shifted my focus back to greenbacks, or lack thereof. More specifically, I have been analyzing the losses and gains of Oregon's most important privately held companies. The big picture, as you may have guessed, looks bleak. But there are some encouraging surprises buried in there as well.

I don't want to give away the results of our annual Private 150 survey, but since that list is ranked by revenues and this blog is devoted to jobs, allow me to tweak the results and offer some insight on who's shrinking and who's expanding.

The largest employers among the companies that participated in our survey (ranked by Oregon jobs) area: Avamere Health Systems, Jeld-Wen, Bimart, Roseburg Forest Products, Les Schwab, Harry & David, Shari's, Swanson Group, R.B. Pamplin Corp and A-dec. Not one of those businesses added jobs in 2008. Jeld-Wen, formerly Oregon's largest privately held employer, shaved 500 jobs, Ron Tonkin chopped 214. Les Schwab cut 206. Roseburg Forest Products eliminated 200. Leatherman Tool Group knifed 117. I'm running out of verbs here, so enough is enough.

 
Another one bites the dust | Print |  Email
Robin Doussard
Monday, June 01, 2009

When I heard over the weekend that Portland-based startup Vidoop apparently was shutting its doors, first reported by TechCrunch and then picked up by Silicon Florist’s Rick Turoczy, the first thing I thought was, “Damn, there goes the Next feature for July."

Admittedly, that’s a pretty selfish thing to think, but we had a feature ready to go on Vidoop’s new CAPTCHA innovation (the company makes Internet security technology). Contributing writer Adrianne Jeffries had interviewed Vidoop software developer Benjamin Stover about using image recognition to fool the robots. It was a nifty idea: the CAPTCHA displays images and asks the user to click several of them in order, which is an easy instruction for a human to follow, but not so much for the web-trolling bots.

Well, sorry Vidoop. You’d been through two rounds of layoffs and it stinks to see another tree fall in the Silcon Forest. And that CAPTCHA idea sounded pretty good. But what about me? Each month we spotlight innovation in our magazine on our Next pages and it’s pulling teeth to get companies to tell us about their cool stuff. So here’s your chance once again. Got a great product, process or idea to share? Just reply here. And do it soon enough and you could be featured in our July issue. We have an opening.

 
Tara's working hands | Print |  Email
Steve Strauss
Thursday, May 28, 2009

Last week, when I was in D.C. covering the Small Business Administration's annual Small Business Week for my USA TODAY column, I was fortunate enough to meet Oregon's Small Business Person of the Year - Tara O'Keeffe.

Tara runs, and is the creative power behind, O'Keeffe's Company, a line of fantasic, all-natural skin therapy products invented by Tara herself.

While Tara was recognized in D.C. as one of 50 state winners, it was Thursday night in Portland where she received her local honor when the Oregon SCORE chapter and the Portland SBA honored her at an award gala at the convention center.

 
Tax breaks for new jobs | Print |  Email
Ben Jacklet
Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I've gotten some nice feedback on my first draft of a top 10 list of Oregon businesses that are hiring and expanding. The biggest response: Hey, put us on the list. We're doing just fine.

That was the message from Portland Energy Conservation, which has 23 job openings in the red-hot field of green building and energy efficiency. This company even has a bounty hunter program that pays $1,000 for successful referrals for hard-to-fill positions such as refrigeration engineers. Who needs rock stars when you have refrigeration engineers?

I also heard from a marketing company out of Bend called G5 Search Marketing that has tripled its employee count since the end of 2007, from 15 to 45. My contact there, Devin Davis, made a strong argument that there is light at the end of the tunnel in Bend, despite its embarrassing position near the top of the list for the nation's highest unemployment rates in metro areas. He reeled off a quick list of companies that are poised to take off there, including GL Suite, Rocketbux and PV Powered.

 
Get real, budget chiefs | Print |  Email
Robin Doussard
Sunday, May 17, 2009

Come on, state budget chiefs. You owe the businesses and citizens of Oregon a lot more clarity on your tax-hike plans. And it should have been clear when you released your budget on May 18.

Trying to make up for a $3.8 billion shortfall, Portland Democrat Sen. Margaret Carter and Ashland Democrat Rep. Peter Buckley outlined balancing the budget with a mix of cuts, higher taxes and using federal stimulus and rainy day reserves, plus $800,000 in new tax revenue.

It is easy to see in their detailed spreadsheet where the cuts are, but it's impossible to figure out what they are thinking about new taxes because it's not there. Oh, a few general ideas have been floated, including raising taxes on households earning $250,000 or more, and the Legislature has been eyeing raising taxes on beer and cigarettes. But nothing even that specific was in the blueprint.

 
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