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Editor's Notes: Oregonians are hurting

Oregonians are driving less, spending less on food, saving less for retirement and working less compared to their neighbors in Idaho and Washington. As pollster Adam Davis says about his recent findings: “When the economy is bad it tends to be worse in Oregon.”

The results were part of the recently released Northwest OpinionScape report that Davis, Hibbitts & Midghall conducted on behalf of the nonprofit Northwest Health Foundation and the Northwest News Network, a collaboration of public radio stations in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. There were 400 general population respondents in each state. DHM, a Portland opinion research and consulting firm, is also Oregon Business’ longtime partner in the 100 Best project.

The top headline out of the extensive report? “It’s all about the economy right now in Oregon,” says Davis. “Households are being affected across the board.”

Editor's Notes: The 2010 100 Best Companies

Who are the 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon? The 2010 list was revealed last night at a grand party of 700 at the Oregon Convention Center. The envelope, please:

For months we’ve been surveying, crunching, preparing for this moment and the class of 2010 is an amazing group of dedicated employers. We’ve devoted the March issue of Oregon Business to celebrating those great workplaces in our 17th annual edition of the 100 Best Companies. Nearly 20,00 employees from 303 companies participated in the free, anonymous workplace satisfaction survey. This is not a beauty pageant. The satisfaction scores from those surveys are calculated by independent research firm Davis, Hibbitts & Midghall to come up with the 100 Best rankings.

The event last night was frosting on the cake for these 100 companies, who out of sight of the spotlight have spent enormous energy to make their business a place that strives every day to treat their employees with respect, openness and trust. They found large and small ways to tell their workers that they care.

Editor's Notes: Come join our Oscars

I know the upcoming Academy Awards hog the spotlight when it comes to a star-studded event oozing with excitement and suspense over who will get the coveted Oscar. But maybe that’s because you haven’t heard about our 100 Best Companies awards.

This year the 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon will be revealed on March 4 at the Oregon Convention Center. For 17 years, Oregon Business has honored those Oregon companies that go the extra mile to create a great place to work for their employees. Rumors are that George Clooney will host.

OK, the Clooney thing's a lie, but it is a fun party with lots of local heroes from the business community being honored.

Editor's Notes: Et tu, Vancouver?

The headline on a recent ad in a Portland newspaper was as subtle as a Glenn Beck symposium on global warming: FED UP WITH TAXES? Come grow your organization in Vancouver. I can understand big, bad Chicago trying to poach, but now our friendly little neighbor across the river?

When the tax measures passed in late January, there were predictions that the new taxes would push businesses out of the state. A few rapid examples pointed to the reality of that fear. Two weeks after the vote a story in the Portland Business Journal cited several companies laying off workers or planning to move (and some had had relocation offers from other Washington cities!). Another story in the Mail Tribune reported that Medford-based ComNet was “among more than two dozen companies that have notified the Oregon Legislature of their intent to leave the state.”

Apparently not one to leave potential business on the table, the EastRidge Business Park in Vancouver placed the ad for a month in the business journal, according to Adam Roselli, a broker for Eric Fuller & Associates and EastRidge. After all, Washington only has a sales tax and Oregon’s new taxes raise rates on corporations and high-earning individuals.

Editor's Notes: Nurturing sustainablity at PSU

Portland State University’s School of Business Administration publicly launched its new Social Innovation Incubator last week, around the time that we were considering a poll on what stifles entrepreneurship in Oregon. The business mood is a little sour these days with the tax measures battle, the enduring downturn, seemingly endless layoffs, and Main Streets pockmarked with vacancies. It has some wondering whether Oregon is a good place to do business.

In the goofy-but-telling category, last Friday the chief of the state’s economic development agency fired back at Chicago’s mayor, who had invited any unhappy Oregon businesses to come to the Windy City if they were steamed that the tax measures passed. And then Beaverton's mayor piled on in a letter published Sunday in the Chicago Sun-Times. It's an economic slapfest that tells you something about how desperate states are for jobs and growth.

Outside the heat of all this, PSU's business school, widely regarded as a leader in social and environmental stewardship, was steadily and quietly building its incubator, which is designed to help established and startup business get to their triple bottom line, or “generate social, environmental and economic value.”

Editor's Notes: Portland takes on Chicago

I don't usually cede my blog to other writers (in fact, never), but this missive I just got today from the desk of Tim McCabe, chief of the state's economic development agency, challenging Chicago Mayor Richard Daley to an economic duel was just too fun.

Editor's Notes: Another river dance in Salem

It just wouldn’t be a legislative session without a water issue to whack around. This will sound familiar. David Nelson, the Republican state senator from Pendleton, has introduced a bill that seeks more water from the Columbia River for uses ranging from livestock, mining and irrigation to recreation, wildlife and fish.

“My wife called me crazy,” Nelson says. That would be Alice Nelson, who is also the senator’s legislative assistant. Crazy, perhaps, because Nelson and Eastern Oregon farmers, irrigators and others have tried unsuccessfully for years to get more water from the Columbia, which is tightly regulated by state and federal rules regarding endangered species, tribal rights, hydro flows and a myriad of other interests.

Nelson is eternally convinced that there’s plenty of extra water in the river, and it’s the way Oregon can climb out of its budget hole. He doesn’t seem to mind beating his head against the wall on this idea. He’s semi-famous for calling the Columbia’s water Oregon’s “oil,” and believes that Oregon could sell its water to parched states such as California for big bucks. “You want to raise some money for education and all the other things? We’re going to have to start looking at our natural resources,” Nelson says. “I’m not saying how or when we should use it.” Nelson says this bill simply restates reserving 30 million acre feet of water that was approved 20 years ago by the Oregon Water Resources Commission and later overruled by the state’s attorney general.

Editor's Notes: The tax rumble settles nothing

The tax rumble is over. The Sharks beat the hell out of the Jets. But everyone woke up this morning bruised and battered by the fight. It’s hard to feel great, even if you win, when the street is covered with blood and you realize the fight settled nothing.

For weeks, the Yes lead fighter, Steve “Bernardo” Novick, and the No frontman, Pat “Riff” McCormick, have been tied at the wrists, knives in the other hand, circling and slashing one another on street corners everywhere.

With last night’s passage by the voters of tax increase Measures 66 and 67, the cops blew the whistle and broke up the $12 million rumble. By a solid margin, Oregonians decided to raise taxes on households with taxable income above $250,000, approved higher minimum taxes on corporations and increased the tax rate on upper-level profits.

Editor's Notes: Read it and don't weep

The Tri-County News in Junction City and the West Lane News in Veneta died in late December so quickly that they didn’t even have time to write their own obit. The weeklies had been publishing for many decades.

“I just don’t have the money to continue,” owner Andrew Polin, who bought the weeklies in April 2008, told the Eugene Register-Guard. “I’m hoping it will be resurrected by someone.”

That someone came along this week. Not a deep-pocket investor or big-city chain, but a couple of former dishwashers who believe their community needs a local newspaper. Lorenzo Herrera, Nelson Rosales and Jennifer Rosales sent out birth announcements yesterday, proudly announcing that their Tri-County Tribune would begin publishing weekly on Jan. 28.

Editor's Notes: Higher ed's good, bad news

Two pieces of higher education news swam across the flotsam and jetsam of my desk in the past few days. Higher ed news always catches my attention because of its fundamental connection to business.

The Joint Boards of Education, which consists of the Boards of Education and Higher Education, and the Oregon Business Council met as the “Tri-Board” last week to discuss how K-12 and higher education can partner with the business community and, according to OUS Chancellor George Pernsteiner, “to determine what students should be learning, and how to evaluate that learning, not just course by course, but as the cumulative result of a college experience.”

The result was that the Tri-board approved standardized credits for the International Baccalaureate classes passed by high school students; approved statewide standards for the General Education course to make it easier to transfer; and approved clarification of the coursework included in the Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer degree.

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