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  • Bend Business Roundup 8-9-19

    By on August 9, 2019

    Happy Friday,

    Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: At this week’s Bend City Council meeting, Joshua Lehner of the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis presented a brief powerpoint of what’s going on with the local and state economy. The good news is that Bend’s median household income has recovered from the Great Recession, during which it took an awful pounding. The bad news is that economic growth is slowing, and is facing headwinds such as housing prices, tight labor market, and trade wars. It’s good information, but it’s perhaps unsurprising that a state agency would omit another obvious headwind: the last legislative session featured an array of anti-business taxes and regulations that suck money and decision-making out of the private sector and deposit them with people in Salem who dislike all markets except that one really cute farmers market with all the CBD and organic beeswax booths.

    Law: Ever since Oregon voters approved legal recreational marijuana earlier this decade, the Deschutes County Commission has been tied in knots about the growing and processing of pot in the rural county. After a brief moratorium, the Commission allowed marijuana businesses to operate, received significant blowback from rural residents annoyed at the smell, lights, noise and voracious snacking allegedly caused by those operations. The county responded with a series of strict regulations in an attempt to mitigate those problems (less the snacking), and got sued by the Oregon Farm Bureau for interfering with agricultural activity. Now, in a kind of “fine, you guys decide what you want us to do” moment, the Commission has taken a first step to possibly referring to the voters the question of whether to allow additional marijuana businesses in the rural county.

    Politics: The two biggest decisions facing the good people of Bend this summer are, in order of  the cumulative amount of mental energy expended, the following: (1) whether to wear the 10 Barrel hat or the Patagonia hat and if the Patagonia hat then which Patagonia hat, the original one with the rainbow mountains, or the one with the rainbow buffalo or the one with the rainbow fish? and (well behind the first) (2) how should vacancies on the Bend City Council be filled? Appointments currently are made by vote of the Council, but some people think there’s not much transparency to that process, which is true. And with an elected mayor position now, there probably be more vacancies as Councilors run for and sometimes win the mayor spot, and vacate the Council spot. My two cents, having been around a few of these appointments: it’s better to let the voters fill vacancies in the next regularly scheduled election.

    Et cetera:  My friends, if you consider yourself a nerd and maybe specifically a history nerd, I cannot recommend highly enough the Hardcore History podcast by Dan Carlin. The best way I can describe the podcast is that it’s the podcast equivalent of a Ken Burns documentary. Carlin researches his subjects, such as World War I, thoroughly and does a brilliant job of mixing detail with narrative. The information is top-notch but presented in a way that makes it really pleasurable to consume. The episodes are long, some around three hours, but an absolute joy to listen to. I’m listening to a six-part series on World War I right now while I drive and work out and pretend to work. It turns out Carlin lives in Eugene, so if you know him, please thank him for me, and check out the podcast!

    I’d love it if you’d urge friends who might like the Bend Business Roundup to sign up here, because everyone needs more email.

    Have a great weekend!

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  • Bend Business Roundup 8-2-19

    By on August 2, 2019

    Happy Friday,

    Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: We wrote last week that job growth has recently slowed in Central Oregon, but if it is there’s new evidence that job growth is slowing from a white-hot pace. USA Today says that the Bend-Redmond metropolitan area has experienced more job growth in the last five years than every other metro area in the country except St. George, Utah. There are 18,500 (!) more people working in the Bend-Redmond metro area than there were just five years ago. Also, it turns out USA Today still exists. (Hat tip to BBR reader Stephen Moor for sending this article my way).

    Law: We lawyers sometimes have to tell our clients that no matter what you do, someone can always sue you. The bar to file a lawsuit is really low. Back when I did insurance defense litigation I had a case where these two guys who lived in Terrebonne and working as flaggers near Sunriver were driving to work one morning. These guys admittedly were not unacquainted with the use of alcohol and they were, to use a technical legal term, rough. Anyway, like any normal person on their way to work, they pulled over on Highway 97 between Redmond and Bend to relieve themselves adjacent to rush hour traffic. As they were merging back into traffic, they alleged that my client ran into them from behind, injuring them. Well, somehow this case went to trial and it turns out the guys weren’t even sure where my client hit their car or how they were injured. They lost, but my client (who thankfully had insurance) still had to go to trial.

    Politics: Governor Kate Brown has informed legislators that she intends to veto or partially veto at least one bill passed by the recently adjourned legislature. When asked if she intended to punish Senate Republicans who walked out of the legislature in protest over the cap and trade bill by vetoing projects in their districts, Brown echoed an old Klingon proverb when she responded, “Revenge is a dish best served cold and slowly.” It’s gross when Trump threatens to use the power of government to punish his political opponents, and it’s gross when Brown does it too, especially because it’s become increasingly clear that Democrats never had the votes to pass cap and trade regardless of what Republicans did. We all pay for the government we have, and at least in theory it’s supposed to do things for the public good; it ought not be a tool for personal political revenge.

    Et cetera:  A company led by Oregon newspaper publishing firm EO Media Group as well as minority investors from Bend is buying The Bulletin and Redmond Spokesman newspapers out of bankruptcy. The Bulletin will surely change under new ownership. After all, the underlying market conditions that led to the bankruptcy and to the widespread destruction of newspapers throughout the county, still exist. Nonetheless, this is the best outcome people like me who need to link to local news stories in their weekly emails could have hoped for! Oh, and everyone who cares about some form of factual reporting about local government.

    Your friends can sign up to receive the Bend Business Roundup here. No sales, no spam. Just the weekly email you’ve come to know and love.

    Have a great weekend!

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  • Bend Business Roundup 7-26-19

    By on July 26, 2019

    Happy Friday,

    Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: Disclaimer: people who want to understand the economy get an economics degree; people who double major in Politics and History realize they don’t want to be a congressional staffer forever – have you been in DC in the summer? – get a law degree. I got a law degree. With that in mind, the evidence for at least a slowing of the breakneck rate of growth in the Central Oregon economy is mounting. Deschutes County job growth in June was the slowest since June 2012. As previously reported, the Bulletin’s Central Oregon Business Index for the first quarter of 2019 turned significantly negative for the first time since 2011. In the first linked article, Damon Runberg, who got an economics and not a law degree, points out that the county’s job growth couldn’t continue at its previous pace and is likely to track more or less with population growth in the next year or so.

    Law: Have you tried goat yoga yet? Well, you might not get a chance in Oregon because the state’s land use law’s seemingly infinite tentacles of unintended consequences reach even into this, uh, practice. That law generally requires that a majority of income derived from farmland come from traditional agricultural activities. Those activities do not include goat yoga, but they do include slaughtering the goats. Why oh why does the State of Oregon hate cute baby goats so much?

    Politics: If you know anything about government infrastructure projects, you know that they are unbelievably expensive (even when abandoned midway and torn down). One of the biggest price tags locally is the $324 million reroute and interchange improvements on Highway 97 at the north end of Bend. The project, which has been in planning for a very long time, would address one of the biggest traffic snares in town, speed the arrival of southbound Sprinter vans to Bend’s man-made surf park, and ease development of industrial land in the Juniper Ridge area. That project got a big boost this week with the announcement of a $60 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Bend City Councilor Justin Livingston, Congressman Greg Walden and a host of other local and state officials lobbied hard for the grant, which is the largest federal grant coming to Central Oregon that I can remember.

    Et cetera:  May I tell you the story of the Tree? When I moved from Washington, D.C. to Eugene in August 2001 to attend law school, I did so in a forest green 1991 Ford Ranger pickup truck with a red canopy, which I had purchased from a coworker, who rarely used it, for $1. The stylish red and green color scheme had earned the pickup – it was too small and wimpy to be called a truck – the nickname “The Tree,” i.e. Christmas Tree,  while still in the ownership of my coworker. The Tree had a vinyl bench seat and no air conditioning and, my friends, August in the Midwest is not without heat and humidity. I drove all the way across the country with both windows down and all of my possessions in the back. I blew a tire in Kearney, Nebraska (which I learned from the guys at the tire shop is pronounced “Carney” for some reason), but otherwise the Tree performed admirably, if a bit sluggishly climbing the Rockies in Wyoming. I drove the Tree as my primary vehicle throughout law school and as a practicing attorney who obviously wasn’t impressing chicks with his car until around 2006. I kept it as a secondary vehicle/decoration until around 2010, when I sold it for $200, realizing what I think is a 19,900% gain that I’m not sure I ever told the IRS about.

    Your friends can sign up to receive the Bend Business Roundup here. No sales, no spam. Just the weekly email you’ve come to know and love.

    Have a great weekend!

    Read more
  • Bend Business Roundup 7-19-19

    By on July 19, 2019

    Happy Friday,

    Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: Two Bend shopping centers anchored by Albertsons grocery stores have sold for a combined $20 million. The Wagner Mall at the north end of town and the Pinebrook Plaza at the south end of town originally housed Wagner’s grocery stores (sold to Albertsons in 1994), and the fact that I didn’t need the linked news story to tell me that, means I’m getting old.

    Law: You’ve heard of FaceApp, the application that allows you to see what you would look like when you’re old because waiting until you’re old to lament looking old isn’t good enough anymore? It’s developed by a Russian company and, well, people are understandably a little nervous about giving Russians access to their photos, lest they appear in really bad social media posts by Russians clumsily trying to influence an American election. The terms of use of the app do say that the company can use your photo and other information as it wishes, which is troubling.

    Politics:  Friends, allow me to relate a story that demonstrates the defining characteristic of Oregon politics:

    1. The main Oregon chapter of the Service Employees International Union (“SEIU“) represents over 22,000 employees of the State of Oregon.
    2. SEIU members pay it 1.7% of their salary in the form of dues.
    3. SEIU’s primary political action committee spent $2 million in 2018 (Click, search for CAPE and go to the account summary for 2018) to help elect Democrats to the legislature and the governor’s office.
    4. Democrats won the governorship and supermajorities in both houses of the legislature.
    5. The Democrat-controlled legislature enacted a bevy of tax and fee increases, including a multi-billion dollar gross receipts tax.
    6. It also increased the pot of money set aside for state employee pay raises from $100 million to $200 million.
    7. State negotiators, who work for the Democrats the SEIU helped to elect, this week agreed to give state employees up to a 15% raise over the next two years, while preventing employees from paying anything more for health insurance.Fifteen percent.
    8. This raise will generate more dues and bigger political contributions for SEIU, which it will use to continue to elect legislators and governors who are favorable to more raises and benefits for SEIU members.

    You see, the primary function of state government in Oregon is to wrench the most possible tax revenue from the general population and to distribute as much as possible to the unionized public employees whose dues elect the politicians who run the government. It is corrupt and disgusting.

    Et cetera:  When Notre Dame cathedral burned, I thought immediately of 9/11. Both involved burning, symbolic and instantly recognizable buildings, with the destruction helplessly viewed in real-time. The New York Times has run an informative story on the effort to save Notre Dame that day, and just how close the entire building came to collapsing, saved only by the heroic efforts of firefighters.

    Your friends can sign up to receive the Bend Business Roundup here. No sales, no spam. Just the weekly email you’ve come to know and love.

    Have a great weekend!

    Read more
  • Bend Business Roundup 7-12-19

    By on July 12, 2019

    Happy Friday,

    Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: There is no time of year when Bend is bursting at the seams more than around the 4th of July, and this year was no exception despite cooler weather. As anecdotal evidence that the tourists are here, I had a guy with California plates come to a full stop in the Shevlin Park Roard/Mt. Washington roundabout and wave me in, causing all the cars behind him to slam on their brakes. It was like he heard that people in Bend are “nice” and resent “rude” California drivers and was trying to make up for all of it himself.

    Law: We’ve covered the bankruptcy and now potential sale of The Bulletin, Central Oregon’s only daily newspaper. Oregon Public Broadcasting reportedthis week that, per the terms of the potential sale, Western Communications, the parent company of The Bulletin, would be required to terminate all Bulletin employees upon closing of the sale, and the buyer may hire or not hire them at its discretion. Now, this is surely concerning for those employees, but it is also entirely standard for a business asset sale, whether in bankruptcy or not. The reason is that if the sale closes, Western Communications will no longer own The Bulletin, and assuming the buyer wants to operate a newspaper in some form (this is unfortunately not guaranteed), it will need to hire some or all of those folks. It can’t if they’re still employed by Western Communications, who in any event doesn’t want to keep paying (nor does the bankruptcy trustee want it to keep paying) people who work for newspaper it no longer owns. For better or worse, this is all standard operating procedure, at least for now. This bit about the ownership structure of the potential buyer is, however, not particularly encouraging (scroll down).

    Politics: If you (1) live in Central Oregon, (2) hold political views that are generally supportive of private property rights and a light touch when it comes to regulations and taxes and (3) think you might be interested in running for local office someday, you should apply for this year’s edition of Step Up Bend. Step Up is a program we started a couple years ago to give potential candidates information they need to decide whether they’d like to run for office. It’s only a monthly lunchtime commitment and it’s free (thanks to our generous sponsors including the Central Oregon Association of Realtors) and non-partisan. The first session is July 25 and it runs through the end of the year. There is (of course) no obligation to run for anything; this is informational only. If you have any questions, shoot me an email or just apply! The deadline for applications is Monday, July 15.

    Et cetera:  Our three-year-old son, Elijah, told me the other day, “Never say anything ever again.” Thanks for reading and hopefully finding what I have to say of more value than does my son. This email series has become less (ish) and more weekly because I really do enjoy writing it. I appreciate your taking a few minutes each Friday to read about what I think is interesting.

    Your friends can sign up to receive the Bend Business Roundup here. No sales, no spam. Just the weekly email you’ve come to know and love.

    Have a great weekend!

    Read more
  • Bend Business Roundup 7-5-19

    By on July 9, 2019

    Happy Friday. Did you have a good Fourth?

    Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: The people of Roanoke, Virginia might be wondering what Bend has against them. This week, Bend-based Humm Kombucha announced that it waspulling out of a deal with the City of Roanoke to buy land upon which to build an east coast brewery. This follows Deschutes Brewery’s announcement this Spring that it was indefinitely suspending plans to open a brewery in Roanoke. Sorry, guys. It’s not personal.

    Law: A significant but often-overlooked bill passed by the 2019 Oregon legislature is a bill to create a state-run, mandatory paid family and medical leave system.  Beginning in 2022, employers with more than 25 employees are required to participate, and pay 60% of premiums (the employee pays 40%). Employees who encounter a qualifying event such as pregnancy, illness, etc. will get up to 12 weeks of paid leave, with full pay for those who don’t make a lot of money, and something less than full pay for those who make more. As with the recently enacted sick leave law, many Oregon employers are going to have to get up to speed on how to implement this new mandate.

    Politics: In the wreckage of the cap and trade bill, Governor Kate Brown threatened to enact portions of the bill without the legislature’s approval. President Trump did the same thing after he was unable to get the funding he wanted for the border wall. I wrote a piece for The Bulletin about the troubling trend of chief executives trying to do administratively what the legislature has declined to do. I don’t think it’s as boring as it sounds, but that might just be me.

    Et cetera:  A Rhode Island subsidiary of a Canadian media company has bid $2.25 million to buy The Bulletin and Redmond Spokesman newspapers in their parent company’s bankruptcy. Competing bids, at least $100,000 more than the current bid, may be submitted by July 15. I have no idea of the value of those newspapers, or really anything about the newspaper business generally, so cannot vouch for the investment wisdom of buying the newspapers. I am also unaware of anyone who is looking at bidding. However, if you are, or know someone who might be, let me know. I and others are interested in finding out whether there’s a critical mass of local-affiliated folks to bid.

    Your friends can sign up to receive the Bend Business Roundup here. No sales, no spam. Just the weekly email you’ve come to know and love.

    Have a great weekend!

    Read more