Oregon’s Economic Growth

Oregon may have a reputation for beards and flannel, but while we haven’t actually had the pleasure of meeting a company that combines the two to craft a shirt made out of beard hair (yet), exports from Oregon’s apparel and footwear industry have doubled over the past ten years.apparelexports

We are working with many Oregon companies to grow exports, grow revenues and grow the economy.  And it’s getting noticed.

Bloomberg News declares “Oregon is the picture of economic health,” details how Portland has quietly lured startups and big company satellites, and profile’s Portland’s “Boomtown Economy”.

Oregon’s skilled workforce, desirable livability, competitive business costs and access to foreign markets are all tremendous assets. That paired with what folks see when they get here—a breathtaking public coastline, majestic mountain peaks, striking river gorges, all surrounding thriving urban communities—makes Oregon a top destination for talent. And while jobs originally attract talent, it’s the presence of strong talent that in turn attracts jobs. This job growth driving Oregon’s recent economic gains is attracting attention of outlets like Bloomberg and others. Below are some recent projects happening on the ground from companies growing in Oregon.

Avago Acquires Hynix Facility in Eugene to Manufacture Mobile Phone Components
Tech company Avago purchased the former semiconductor fab for a new production line.  Avago vice president Stan Strathman said “the facility is well suited to our manufacturing needs, while the Eugene location provides access to a strong labor base and an established infrastructure supporting high-tech manufacturing.”

LinkedIn Near Completion of Hillsboro, Oregon Facility
From LinkedIn: “Notwithstanding its ‘Portlandia’ depiction as the national hub of craft coffee, plaid and hipsterism, Portland is also a prosperous economy offering new opportunities for technology and innovation. The city is fast becoming a next-generation technology hub. Our newest data center in a nearby suburb will be one of the most advanced and efficient data centers in the world.”

ConAgra / Lamb Weston Expands Oregon Facility
ConAgra/Lamb Weston announced the expansion of its potato processing facility in Boardman, Oregon. Lamb Weston is one of the largest employers in the Columbia Basin, with approximately 4,500 employees at a corporate office and seven manufacturing facilities in the region.

Act-On Expands Headquarters to Portland
Oregon-based software firm Act-On is moving from Beaverton to the Bank of America building in downtown Portland this summer. Act-On CEO Andy MacMillan says “Downtown Portland is a draw nationally and beyond” and it allows the company to attract both young recruits just out of college as s well as tech veterans.

Daimler Breaks Ground on R&D Facility in Madras
Daimler Trucks North America,  on the verge of completing its $150M headquarters expansion in Portland, broke ground on a new $18M research facility and test track in the Central Oregon city of Madras.

At Business Oregon, we’re excited about what Oregon has achieved, but we are also acutely aware that growth has not been equal in all corners of the state. The chart below shows that while Oregon and some of its regions are back above pre-recession employment levels, there are some that have had slower recoveries.


The housing sector drove Central Oregon down the furthest, but it’s also experienced the steepest comeback. The manufacturing and high technology-heavy Portland Metro region started its recovery first and has been on a steady employment increase since.  The loss of jobs in wood products and other impacts of natural resource sectors have made southern Oregon recovery slower.

So while we should celebrate Oregon’s strong employment and wage growth overall, there’s a continued need to create opportunities for prosperity for all Oregon communities, and we will use the talent and programs we have available to do just that.

Chris Harder: Business Oregon’s new director

160210 Chris Harder - welcome card

Governor Kate Brown this morning announced that she has named Chris Harder as the next director of Business Oregon.

Harder joins us from the Portland Development Commission, the city’s economic development agency, where he served as economic development director. He previously served as the Director of Economic Analysis for the North Carolina Department of Commerce and a Senior Budget Analyst in the North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management.

He will start March 22 as acting director, with a confirmation hearing planned before the state Senate in May. Harder fills the position previously held by Sean Robbins, who stepped down in July.

News coverage

City of Lebanon project pushes safe drinking water fund past $300 million

Business Oregon’s Infrastructure Division has surpassed $300 million in projects that support safe drinking water across the state.

We passed the milestone in August with a $10 million loan for a water treatment plant and water intake system in the City of Lebanon, the largest loan in the fund’s history. The loan will allow the city to replace a nearly 70-year-old treatment plant and to double the drinking water capacity in the city of 16,000.

“Business Oregon’s loan program was a huge benefit for us,” said Ron Whitlatch, Lebanon’s city engineer. “We couldn’t have done it with out the Infrastructure Division. Without the low interest rate loan, we likely would have had to raise citizens’ water rates by another 15 percent.”

Since 1998, the Safe Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund has provided $330 million in funding to 173 projects across 31 Oregon counties. Download a complete list of projects in Excel or a Google Spreadsheet and check out project map.

For more information, check out today’s news release.

Amanda Welker: Business Oregon’s New Global Strategies Officer

From Samantha Mary Julian, our Assistant Director for Business Development:

We’re pleased to announce that Amanda Welker is joining our team as the new Global Strategies Officer.

Amanda will lead Business Oregon’s four-person Global Trade team and our overseas offices to help Oregon small businesses grow their FDI and export sales in global markets. The team’s work includes supporting the Governor’s trade missions, recruiting foreign investors (FDI), leading the annual “Doing Business in Oregon” seminar in Japan and managing our State Trade Export Promotion (STEP) program. The Legislature approved the creation of the Global Strategies Officer position in the 2015 session.

Amanda Welker headshot 1 cropped

Amanda Welker

Amanda has been a key partner for Business Oregon and the state’s trade community for more than a decade. Since 2006, she has served as an International Trade Manager with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. She worked with Oregon’s food and agriculture companies to create marketing and export strategies for dozens of countries and products.

Amanda and the Oregon Department of Agriculture have been tremendous partners in growing Oregon’s exports and supporting small business, and we expect that Amanda’s work at Business Oregon will only further strengthen our partnership. In October, she joined the Governor, Business Oregon, the Port of Portland and Travel Oregon on the Governor’s Business Mission to Japan, China and Vietnam.

Amanda, who grew up in the Midwest in a farm family, previously worked for the Oregon Legislature and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and in sales and marketing roles in medical software and outdoor recreation. Welker earned a bachelor’s degrees from Portland State University in political science and international relations.

Amanda’s first day is Monday, Jan. 25.

Samantha Mary Julian
Assistant Director, Business Development

Stories from the Oregon Business Plan summit

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We’re at the Oregon Business Plan summit with 1,300 of our friends, partner and colleagues.

We’re sharing updates on Twitter with the hashtag #ORBizSummit. We’re also posting photos to Flickr and on Facebook.


Oregon Business Plan summit

Media coverage


Q&A: Thomas Schnell, our new business finance officer in Central Oregon

Thomas Schnell is our new business finance officer in Central Oregon.

Schnell brings 25 years’ experience in commercial banking, most of it in Central Oregon. He will work with small businesses, local private lenders and economic development partners to help grow the Central Oregon economy. He will improve access to Business Oregon’s finance programs and help lenders support small businesses seeking capital to operate and expand.

Schnell’s region will include the counties of Crook, Deschutes, Hood River, Jefferson and Wasco.

Schnell grew up in Roseburg and graduated from Oregon State University in 1990 with a business degree. He has lived in Central Oregon for 20 years and has three children. Schnell and his family enjoy Central Oregon’s outdoor activities, from ice skating to kayaking to biking.

We talked with Schnell about his career and his goals for his new job.

What types of banking did you do in the private sector?

Someone told me, don’t get pigeon holed into a certain type of lending. So I learned everything from agriculture to accounts receivable and real estate to equipment financing. I worked with everyone from attorneys to doctors and trucking companies to manufacturers. I’ve done very, very small businesses to multimillion dollar businesses. I tried to get as much experience in different types of lending as I could. In the rural communities, it’s very difficult to have a niche. You have to know a lot of different stuff. 

What is it that you like about business finance?

The mechanics of finance itself. You’re working with numbers and a lot of it is seeing how I can actually help people. One of my best memories was being in Baker City. I had helped a company over there put in a new oven. I remember one of the employees coming up to me to tell me how excited he was to have this new machinery and how much it made their life easier. The owner was excited because it was helping his bottom line but he was also delivering a better product. He could hire a couple of extra people because of the cost savings.

To me that’s what it’s all about. It’s about helping people. It’s about taking the tools that I’ve learned … I’ve found out that most business owners are really good at making or selling something. But when it comes to the financing aspect of it, sometimes that’s second burner.

Most of my customers would follow me from bank to bank to bank because they knew I would take care of them. They knew I had their best interests at heart. I just take a look at finance, banking and lending as tools. It’s the tools of your trade. My job is to show them how to use the tools. Most of them have a product or service they’d like to sell and they need the financing to be able to do that. My job is to show them how to do it in the most cost effective way.

That’s why I love doing it. I love helping businesses.

What’s your goal in Central Oregon for this position?

Central Oregon is a great place to live. It’s just near and dear to me. There’s a perception out there that there’s a lack of capital. I think that’s a misnomer. I want to work with public agencies, lenders and others to get the word out.

What’s different about working in public sector banking compared to the private sector?

At the bank, you’re focused on sales production. Sometimes you can’t help those customers who are borderline and spend the time with them. I’m getting to the point in my career where I want to start giving back. This is an opportunity for me to do that, to work with businesses to help them get to the next stage to be productive businesses.

What do you like to do outside of the office?

I love doing outdoor stuff. In the winter time, I do a lot of ice skating, snowshoeing. During the summer time, kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, camping, biking and hiking.

Business, policy leaders discuss potential Trade & Logistics solutions at fall forum


The Trade & Logistics fall forum at the Wilsonville Holiday Inn on Friday, Nov. 13.

The Trade & Logistics fall forum at the Wilsonville Holiday Inn on Friday, Nov. 13.

Our Trade & Logistics team is meeting this morning with business and policy leaders to share research and potential solutions for the recent decline in container shipping in Oregon.

Today’s meeting is part of an ongoing Trade & Logistics initiative coordinated by Business Oregon, the Port of Portland, the Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Our preliminary recommendations are in The Tioga Group’s draft report released earlier this week. At today’s meeting, we’re reviewing and discussing those recommendations. Today’s input, along with future research and feedback, will be presented to the 2016 Legislature in February.

Here are the six preliminary recommendations in The Tioga Group’s draft report:

Recommended action on business cases:  The six initiatives chosen for more detailed analysis are summarized below with the research team’s recommendations.

Port Trucker Information System

A trucker information system should be part of the Trade and Logistics Initiative. The system should be started as soon as possible. The Oregon Department of Transportation or the Port of Portland would be logical public agency sponsors.

Truck Driver Training

There is both a clear need and a clear public role in expanding the truck driver labor pool. An expanded truck driver training and recruitment program would be a logical component of the Trade and Logistics Initiative, with a well-defined public agency role.

Satellite Container Yards

Satellite depot/drop lot/dray-off concepts have significant promise, have been raised by multiple stakeholders, and have a feasible public agency role. Consideration of such facilities should be part of the Trade and Logistics Initiative, and pursued in public-private partnership

Portland Transloading, Cold Storage, and Logistics Services

Expanding and anchoring transloading and other logistics services in the Portland area could be a valuable part of the Trade and Logistics Initiative. Potential development of cold storage facilities for imports in the Portland area could provide refrigerated containers for Oregon agricultural exporters and help provide a balance of imports-exports needed for Portland container service.

New Rail Intermodal Yards and Services

Establishment of new rail intermodal yards and services within the Trade and Logistics Initiative would require further investigation of the business value for Class 1 railroads, cargo volumes, import container opportunities, and financial support from carriers and/or others. Any long-term public agency involvement should be contingent on private sector development of a robust business and operations plan with the necessary commitments from anchor customers, Union Pacific, and ocean carriers.

Columbia River Rail/Barge Service

The Northwest Container Service/Tidewater Columbia River rail/barge service linking Lewiston, Washington and Boardman, Oregon is scheduled to begin in November 2015. The service has received start-up financial support from the Port of Portland. The Trade and Logistics Initiative should monitor development of the service and anticipate emerging needs for additional public support as it expands.

Japanese watersports company picks Beaverton for North American expansion

Japanese watersports company Mobby’s selected Beaverton as the headquarters for its expansion into the North American market, Business Oregon and the City of Beaverton announced today

Mobby’s, Japan’s largest manufacturer of scuba diving suits, has opened a sales, marketing and distribution office in Beaverton to serve the United States and Canada.

Business Oregon, the state’s economic development agency, and the City of Beaverton have worked with Mobby’s executives since the spring. They attended Business Oregon’s “Doing Business in Oregon” seminar in Tokyo in April, an annual event to recruit foreign direct investment into Oregon. Company leaders visited Oregon this summer and consulted with Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle and Business Oregon’s recruitment team before choosing Beaverton over the Seattle region.

About foreign direct investment: Business Oregon and its partners market Oregon as a destination for foreign investors and companies, including meetings with investors during the Governor’s Business Mission to Asia in October. Foreign-owned firms, on average, pay 28 percent higher wages and create about 46,000 Oregon jobs.

News coverage

Business Oregon leads trade mission to global tech summit in Ireland

Business Oregon's booth the Web Summit in Dublin in November 2015.

Business Oregon’s booth the Web Summit in Dublin in November 2015.


Our Innovation & Entrepreneurship team is in Dublin this week with six partners and three companies promoting Oregon at the Web Summit, one of the world’s biggest and most important tech conferences.

We’ll share updates here, and you can follow the Oregon team on Twitter with #OregoninDublin.

News coverage


Looking back on the Governor’s Business Mission to Asia

151021 Trade mission wrapup

Governor Kate Brown and the Oregon delegation are back home after a nine-day, three-country business mission through Asia.

The Governor and the 50-person delegation visited Japan, China and Vietnam to promote Oregon tourism with Travel Oregon, businesses with Business Oregon, and food products with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. The delegation had seven business development meetings and met with U.S. ambassadors in each country.

Asia is a critical trade partner to Oregon. China, for example, is our largest export market at $4 billion annually, Japan is our single-largest foreign investor and Vietnam’s growing middle-class provides new opportunities for Oregon food exports.

For more on the mission, check out photos on the Governor’s Flickr page and our daily blog posts from the trip:

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