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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Steve Novick explains the "stampede" of businesses to Oregon

Friday, April 9, 2010

The mysterious and elusive Jim Dunning

At BlueOregon, Steve Novick writes a man-bites-dog story of Washington businesses forming a "stampede" to relocate to Oregon:

632 Washington business owners announced today that they were moving their businesses across the river to Oregon, after the Washington Legislature announced plans to increase the Business and Occupation Tax - in effect, a gross receipts tax - on service businesses from 1.5% to 1.8% in order to balance the state budget.

"Many of us started thinking about making this move a few months ago, when we started reading about the Measures 66 and 67 campaign and discovered that Oregon was planning to adopt an alternative minimum tax that looked sort of like the B&O tax, but was only 0.1% or a flat $150," said Vancouver dermatologist Jim Dunning. "We had no idea that before this, Oregon had nothing like the B&O tax at all. Now that Washington's raising the B&O tax even higher, we'd be fools - not just in April but year 'round - to stay in Washington State another minute."

Interesting story ... And all the more interesting because there appears to be no one by the name of Jim Dunning licensed to practice dermatology in the entire State of Washington.

Over at Oregon Business, managing editor Ben Jacklet has dropped the gauntlet to any businesses who claim that Measures 66 & 67 have caused them to relocate out of state.

Once I get such a name, on the record, I promise to explore in great detail the specific reasons behind that person's departure .... I think that would make a great story, but to get started I'll need some proof that people are indeed leaving because of the taxes.

Let's see if Mr. Jacklet turns his attention to report all sides of the story.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Mary Nolan's economic development plan: "Repeat after me, 'Oregon is great for business'"

Oregon House majority leader Mary Nolan has a plan to bring back business to Oregon. It's simple: Just tell people that Oregon is a great place to do business. And then keep repeating it until some business believes it.

Mary Nolan has a reputation in Capitol for being one of the most anti-business Democrats in the building. But now she is belting out a tune from the same hymnal that the rest of the Salem's Democrats are singing from. The tune is, "Oregon is Great for Business."

Oregon is, objectively, a great place to do business. Oregon offers entrepreneurs and business leaders an educated and well-trained workforce; a strong transportation infrastructure; among the nation's most robust, low-cost workers' compensation systems, and, yes, the fifth-lowest business tax burden in the country.

You can expect Mary Nolan to support Oregon's business right around the same time you can expect Osama Bin Laden to deliver Easter Mass.

She names 2 solar cell companies (that have consume copious amounts of tax dollars through the Business Energy Tax Credit). Even the brewery she mentions made it's energy efficiency "investments" because the state's BETC program threw a bucket of money at the brewer.

After that, you get to play buzzword Bingo: solar, family wage jobs, biomass, livability. Remember you get to use clean-tech only once!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Measuring the impacts of Measures 66 and 67

Today, the Alliance of Oregon’s Business Associations announced the launch of a website,, which intends to capture and quantify some of the real-life impacts of Measures 66 and 67 on Oregon companies and their employees.

“Businesses are telling us that the tax hikes are resulting in postponed investments, business expansion in states other than Oregon, and loss of employment,” said J.L. Wilson, spokesperson for the Alliance.

To track the employment consequences of Measures 66 and 67, the Alliance has established a web site where Oregonians can record the impact of the legislature’s tax increases.

  • Did a business leave the state because of Measures 66 and 67?
  • Did a business choose not to locate in Oregon due to the taxes?
  • Did an business fire or layoff a certain number of jobs or scrap plans for expansion?
  • Did employees experience salary reductions or benefits cuts as a result of these tax increases?

Information gleaned from the website will be used to demonstrate the impacts of tax increases on Oregon employers so that policymakers and legislators have a better grasp of how specific taxes affect Oregon’s economy.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

New feature: Oregon businesses that are out of business

We have been given access to a database of businesses coming and going from our great state. The database application is experimental, so there may be some kinks to work out moving forward.

Over on the right hand side, we will list Oregon businesses that are out of business as soon as the information is made available in the database.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Portland Development Commission offers flimsy aid to firms following the latest fads

Oregon is a funny place. If your business surfs the latest fads of buzzwords like green, sustainable, or (our faddishly favorite) clean-tech, you'll find politicians playing an economic version of What-would-you-do-for-a-Klondike-Bar?

Problem is, Oregon's efforts to boost business are half-hearted at best. Even worse, they come with so many strings attached that even a marionette would run screaming for Idaho.

The Portland Business Journal reports that latest massively misguided effort comes from the Portland Development Commission, the city’s economic development arm. The PDC has launched a program that it hopes will help small businesses create jobs. But, the program is limited only to those businesses that will satisfy the mayor's fondness for "clean-tech," or green, jobs.

The program is called the Small Contractors Loan Insurance Program (pdf) and it helps businesses obtain a revolving line of credit. As such, the PDC recognizes that there is substantial financial risk to the city involved. For businesses seeking the loans, there are some strings attached ...

Businesses must meet minimum qualifications, including:
  • Pay prevailing wage or 180% of state minimum wage, whichever is higher;
  • Be Home Performance with Energy Star Building Performance Institute-certified; and
  • Hire new worker/installer weatherization employees from a qualified weatherization training program.
Businesses get bonus points if they have a track record of hiring or retaining underserved populations, or a detailed plan for welcoming diversity in their workplace.

And some more strings ...

Workers must come from "qualified training programs" such as those that:
  • Provide weatherization training using curriculum developed by an accredited organization to meet United States Department of Energy standards and any additional specifications and standards designated by the Oregon Department of Energy and Energy Trust;
  • Have at least three defined partnerships with state recognized pre-apprenticeship programs or signatory community organizations that serve historically disadvantaged or underrepresented populations, including women, and people of color; and
  • Offer mentoring, follow-up monitoring and/or other support to assure retention of participants in the program and in weatherization careers.
All that for a glorified credit card!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Oregon Business magazine says good riddance to Oregon business

Ben Jacklet, the managing editor of Oregon Business, unloads both barrels on Measures 66 and 67. What's most surprising is that the editor unloads on ... Oregon businesses.

Mr. Jacklet's take on the businesses thinking of leaving for more business friendly states? "Don't let the door hit you on the butt on the way out."

That's a pretty surprising sentiment from a business magazine. But it's not all that surprising from Oregon Business magazine.

Over the years, Oregon Business has been the model of milquetoast reporting. Everything is awesome in Oregon and business is booming! Green! Sustainable! Wine! Streetcars! Windmills! It's all awesome! Taxes are low! Children are smart! Government is savvy!

I have long since given up on Oregon Business to report on Oregon's business environment. Maybe that's why the only place I see the magazine is in the doctor's office nestled between Highlights for Children and the AARP magazine.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Historical society hits up county for higher taxes

The Portland Tribune reports that the Oregon Historical Society is exploring creation of a “heritage taxing district” empowered to collect a modest amount of property taxes, with voter approval, in Multnomah County.

A tentative proposal is to charge 5 cents in taxes for every $1,000 in assessed property value, or $10 a year for owners of a house with a $200,000 tax assessment.

That rate would raise $2 million a year for the Oregon Historical Society, plus smaller amounts to be shared with other museums in the county.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Governor candidate Bill Bradbury say Measures 66 and 67 should be repealed

Portland Monthly recently had a Q & A with Bill Bradbury, who is running as a Democrat for Oregon governor. Despite his reputation for being the most left leaning of the candidate, Bradbury recognizes that the tax increases of Measures 66 and 67 are hurting Oregon's business environment.

Forbes: After Measures 66 and 67, we’ve given up the ability to do all the reform that needs to be done. There’s no trust.

Bradbury: I wish 66 and 67 were temporary.

Chambers: How are you going to keep businesses and individuals from leaving Oregon because of 66 and 67? Some are already planning to.

Bradbury: I think you need to repeal 66 and 67. That’s a huge challenge given the fiscal situation. But, frankly, I think 11 percent is a pretty high income tax. Let me be clear, I’m not proposing repeal. But I’d certainly look at it if we have serious impacts from the increase. I don’t think it’s sustainable.

Peppler: Keep in mind that part of the deal with the Oregon Business Alliance was that the members would agree to the temporary business tax and then we would help fund the campaign for kicker reform. Unfortunately, it was rejected out of hand by the legislative majority.

Bradbury: When you have the business community coming to the legislature, saying, “We recognize the need; we’re willing to pay our fair share,” my advice would be, go for it. Come out with a remarkable coalition. That’s the role of the governor.

UPDATE: Bradbury backtracks on his recorded statement and claims he misspoke about repealing the tax measures. His new campaign slogan: I was for the taxes before I was against the taxes, but now I'm for the taxes.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

As wealthy exit Oregon, Saks shutters Portland store

Saks Inc. said Tuesday it plans to close its Saks Fifth Avenue stores at Pioneer Place Mall in Portland, Oregon. Saks will close the men's store in April and shut the main store in July. About 100 employees will be affected by the move. The decision is in line with Saks' strategy to focus resources on productive stores, Chief Executive Steve Sadove said in a statement.

In a 140 character announcement, Portland's mayor Sam Adams blames the exit on an ending lease and tough times "all over."