When his son took the stage at the beginning of the “Party for Bob” last night, he spoke clearly and strongly, but the son’s voice could not keep from faltering at times as he remembered his father. What child could hold steady saying such a goodbye?
Erik Gerding’s dad might have helped build a city, but first and before all that, he was a beloved father, husband and granddad.And so this public memorial for him was a very private one. It didn’t celebrate the Brewery Blocks he helped build, the green revolution he helped spark, or even the theater that bears his name and bore witness to his goodbye. Those tributes had been paid.
No. This memorial was for Bob Gerding’s family, who filled the first row of the Gerding Theater in dowtown Portland, as the business, civic and political leadersfilled the rest of the auditorium. The family had invited the community to share in their deeply personal memories of Bob, who died Aug. 18 at the age of 71 after a long battle with cancer.
A recent afternoon in the business book section at Powell's reaffirmed my belief that you can tell the mood of the nation by current titles: How the Mighty Fall; House of Cards; Fool’s Gold. My beloved pundits are great Monday morning quarterbacks, but didn’t see the ball coming until it whacked them in the nose. Nice work, fellows! I’d give you $30 of my hard-earned money but I can’t because I, and the nation, agree with you: Everyone’s a crook!
Moving down the book aisles, I found that as a woman I have a few issues to work out that I hadn’t yet come to terms with. Diane Sawyer (nationally touted as “63 and still gorgeous!”) promises me in her blurb for Womenomics that it’s a "personal, provocative and challenging book for career women who want less guilt, more life." Gorgeous needs to fix her life? I’m in!
With the authors’ help, I will be able to demand the balance that’s been missing in my life; stop fighting the old gender wars and use my power to negotiate, say no and damn it all, stop feeling crappy about it, not to mention getting over the guilt I feel about hating Diane. I immediately felt guilty about despising books that suppose women have been victims most of their life and then ask them to spend $28 to get out of the mess. I decided not to buy this book, and I didn't feel guilty. Golly, working already!
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.
I am facing the horrifying realization that 1980s fashion is back with a vengeance this season: big shoulders, leggings, oversized knits, MC Hammer pants (ask an old person), zippered ankle boots. I was just as hooked on Dallas and Dynasty as the next sap, but I really hate the idea of dressing like Joan Collins again. What next? Mall bangs?
Flash, trash and cash pretty much summed up the decade and once around was enough for me, so it is really disturbing to see signs that the ’80s are infiltrating other areas.
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.
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.)
This year’s trip to Spain is sitting on the top of my house. The rot was showing through, so we broke down and replaced the darned roof last month. And what did that mean? Right. A staycation.
So last week during the record heat we joined the ranks of vacationers in Oregon, mostly running around the state to escape the heat, from Timothy Lake to the Coast to the McKenzie River. Now, living in Oregon is heaven to me, so I’m not complaining. And roaming around for a week gave me an interesting view of how business is doing in Small Town, OR. While the beauty of the state can’t be overstated, neither can the effects of the economic meltdown.
Almost everywhere we went we were reminded of how badly the recession has settled in around the state. But even if you are taking a staycation, it doesn’t mean you are filling up the hotels or restaurants or spending a lot of money.
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.
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.
The two dozen women inmates incarcerated at Coffee Creek Correctional Institution in Wilsonville stared at me ravenously; cubs eyeing the thing they hoped would feed them.
OK, a bit purple. OK, a lot purple. But I have to redeem myself by at least using one metaphor here, since I couldn’t give the group a decent example during a writing class I recently taught at the prison. There I was going on about great writing and how they should use metaphors for power and persuasion, when one of the women asked for an example. My mind went as blank as a subpoened bank accountant. (Now, had they wanted a simile, I would have been ready.)
A hot Wednesday wind blew me into the cool air of Nedspace, a co-working hub for startups on Southwest Third Avenue in downtown Portland. I was on my way to meet Carolynn Duncan, founder of Portland Ten.
I first met Duncan a few months ago when she co-organized with another serial entrepreneur, Pete Grillo, a surprise kazoo sendoff serenade for a mutual friend at Paddy’s. We were criminally awful and it greatly embarrassed our buddy Abraham. Duncan’s enthusiasm and her joy at watching him squirm were immense. I liked that. So we got to know each other a bit over follow-up coffee just as she was launching Portland Ten, which helps early-stage tech startups. I promised to keep tabs. Women are rare in this arena, especially young women. Kazoo expertise is even scarcer.
Which brings me back to NedSpace. Duncan’s second group of entrepreneurs recently started the 12-week boot camp that “combines venture capital investment standards, Getting Things Done methodology, and extreme bootstrapping philosophy.” There also are “workouts” to help founders develop “muscle” and checkups. (I get sweaty just reading this.) Founders have to put in six to eight hours a week and commit to generating $1 million in revenue by 2010. The goal of Portland Ten is to create 10 of these start-ups in the next 18 months.
Early Saturday morning, I sat facing dozens of sharp young women who were prepared to pepper me and two other panelists about the state of the media.
This was the third year that I’d been on the panel, which is part of the NEW Leadership Oregon program at Portland State University. It’s always a daunting request to sum up such as vast and complicated question, and this year even more so, coming as it did in an historically transformational time for all media.
Sunday was a day when you couldn’t tell if it was going to rain or shine, so maybe it was that atmospheric ambivalence that kept the crowds away from the Oregon Garden Resort.
I was hiking the exquisite Silver Falls State Park and decided to swing by the new operation to see how it was doing. The garden was quiet and except for a 50th anniversary celebration, the resort was also a subdued scene. Moonstone Hotel Properties of Cambria, Calif., took over management of the financially troubled Oregon Garden three years ago. Moonstone, which owns a network of about 10 inns, most of them in California and many with garden themes, then set about developing the resort, which sits adjacent to the garden, and opened it last September, a spectacularly bad time to open any new hotel.
The recession has hurt tourism around the state: the Coast is under water and even Ashland’s vaunted Shakespeare Festival isn’t immune. The lodging industry is seriously hurting. We reported in March that occupancy rates statewide were expected to drop below 59%, the post 9/11 figure, so when regional general manager Lynda Gill told me the resort was running at 70% occupancy for its 103 rooms, it sounded like good news. A lot of their business is coming from conferences (“We’ve been discovered by the state associations”), and they’re keeping business alive by focusing on the local market, and offering low-priced packages to lure customers.
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.
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.
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.
Is your business ready to join us in the call for action? This opening panel includes Oregon businesses who will discuss why they signed the Oregon Climate Declaration, the investments they are making to reduce carbon emissions, and how their actions are affecting their companies.