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Andrew Insinga: There's real fear out there

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Guest Blog
Friday, April 02, 2010
I don’t do this often. And by this I mean interject myself into the editorial realm of magazine publishing. I know some publishers do, but my style is to hire editors I trust and let them do their thing so I can do my thing, which is to run the business.

I read Oregon Business managing editor’s Ben Jacklet’s blog post last week about the “phantom exodus” of Oregon companies after the vote on tax Measures 66 and 67 as a business strategist, not as the magazine's publisher. And I responded as many of those who have commented did — with anger.

But after some deep breaths, re-reads of the column and a conversation with Ben, I realized the disconnect.

Ben’s message is directed at those who would hijack this sensitive topic for political or personal gain. He is a “just-the-facts” type of reporter, and a good one, too. Without facts, there is only spin and if that spin hurts business in Oregon then you will likely read about it on in our pages or on our website.

But I want to add one thing: There is real fear and real pain on the part of business owners and executives. I know because I’m one. With each new piece of legislation, policy, tax or even trend comes both an obstacle and opportunity. But the low-hanging savings fruit was picked long ago.

What we have left are very real, very harsh and very definitely not phantom “what ifs.”

What if I downsized some more? What if I delayed that rehire? Should I move to smaller office space or have a virtual office? Should I replace employees with independent contractors? Should I leave personal costs such as health care to the employee? A responsible executive examines every possible angle. Freelance vs. in-house? Job consolidation? Elimination of land lines? Merge with my competition? The list goes on and on. And yes, we also ask ourselves, “What if I moved the company?”

Some of the “what if’s” are feasible. Some are ridiculous. Some are implemented. Some are rejected after a little research. Still, the process goes on and is a very tangible and important part of business strategy.

There are those who would exaggerate their business plans to promote a point of view. But there are those who are very seriously affected by each new assault on the business climate in Oregon, and I think we should continue to make the “what ifs” heard. The vote is the vote, as Ben said, but the consequences of the vote are real, too, and I wonder “what if” we let voters know what happens to business after the vote has been settled.

Andrew Insinga is the CEO of Mediamerica, which publishes Oregon Business.



Chuck Sheketoff
0 #1 The role of journalism.Chuck Sheketoff 2010-04-07 15:14:30
Ben Jacklet's column gets to the role of journalism -- which is to separate out the reality from fantasy. Running a business, whether a publishing business such as yours or a nonprofit such as mine, is always filled with what ifs. Ben was responding, appropriately, to a front page story in the state's leading newspaper that was bogus -- an unnamed business and business owner considering a "what if" without providing any data for the readers to assess if it was silly or plausible. And then unfounded complaints by named wealthy people that folks are leaving Oregon, but not them! The Oregonian has tarnished its Pulitzer with it's shoddy stories under the guise of journalism. From printing outright false statements from Phil Knight and others, to filling up the front page with non-news empty rumors, they ought to be ashamed. And that's what Ben rightly told them.
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Jim Dittmer
0 #2 Disturbing trends…Jim Dittmer 2010-04-08 11:55:47
A most troubling fact was brought into focus by the recent election (and to a large extent, the HealthCare Bill). Our fellow citizens' complete disdain, distrust, misunderstandin g, and even hatred for the sector of society that creates the jobs that allow them to provide for themselves and their families and to pursue their interests. Few, even highly educated people, outside the business arena have any notion of how business is crucial to the very lifestyle they lead. They have never questioned the idea that raising taxes on others is a win for them. Few have pondered who really ends up paying those extra business taxes. Most think businesses make far more in profits than we do. In general, both politicians and media have played to that ignorance to the point of pandering. Lots of true facts, but very little truth. When Exxon was being castigated for their "obscenely high record profits" (about 10%) did anyone ever mention that they also had record costs, and that their profit margins had actually shrunk by 5% from the previous year? When the Health Insurance companies were being raked over the coals in front of Congress, did anyone ask what their margins were (Avg, less than 5%). What politician or news media outlet stood up and said, "Here's a plan to reduce health care costs. If we bring those down, more people could buy insurance." It's odd that in the capitol of Capitalism, business should be so poorly represented by politics, the education system, and popular media.
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Kathryn Rosson
0 #3 A Real Life Case Study of the Effects of Measure 66 & 67....Is Moving the only OptionKathryn Rosson 2010-04-15 20:19:10
I was asked to share our real life experience with the effects of Measure 66 & 67.

A little background is in order for readers to understand the implications of the negative economic climate and how Measure 66 & 67 exacerbated an already difficult situation.

We own a Glazing Contracting Company which has been a Union Shop for 15 years. Our company is ranked in the top 5 Glazing Contractors in the State of Oregon.

Last year, we employed 100 Union Glaziers and 25 office staff, of those 100 Glaziers, 30 had been with our company for over 10 years; this year, we employee 5 office staff and 3 Union Glaziers.

Why? Our job as a Union Glazing Contractor is to 'sell' the wage & benefits package of skilled labor. Up until last year, we were very successful at doing just that. With the economic 'crisis' came contracts which were going to non-union shops. Non-union market labor rate is $22.00 per hour (okay, maybe $25). The Union package is $50.00 per hour.

Quite simply, we can't sell that number.
We have made the tough choice to close our business that has been very successful in the Metro market place for a fairly long time (15 years), a business that has provided for as many as 125 families.

My husband positioned us to close the business for 18–24 months and to, hopefully, re-emerge.

What does that have to do with Measure 66 & 67?

That bill was retroactive. At a time when we are handing out pink slips to long-time employees, M 66 & 67 added the equivalent of one full time non–union employee's wages to our tax bill.

Have we considered leaving Oregon? Absolutely!

There is one little problem.

We own a 30,000 sf commercial building that has lost 15% of its value (we are actually lucky here, but 15% of the multi-million it took to build is a big #). Add to that a drop in the value of our personal residence.

Equals: we can't afford to leave; we are in the midst of a 'perfect storm'

Where would we go? Great question!

Prior to the 'crisis' we had talked about selling the business; the question of becoming Camas-ites was a real conversation. We always said, 'no, this is such a great state, 9% income tax was worth the privilege of living here'.

Being hit with the effects of M66 & 67 tax bill at a time when we are literally fighting for our lives, has tipped us over the edge. Both of us would move in a heartbeat if we could figure out how to resolve the real estate issues.

Where would we go? Simple Answer...wherev er anyone is still building commercial buildings, EXCEPT California!

Additional Info: I’m a R-Dem Hub is R-Rep….neither of us thinks one party does a better job than the other.
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William Anthony
0 #4 Fear of being 14th lowest in the nation?William Anthony 2010-10-19 14:55:19
Let's face it like grownups. The economy is circling the drain in nearly every sector throughout the country. If the time, energy and motion required to move, rehire and retool outweighs riding this period out, have a great trip.

I'm in it for the long haul.
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