Updates

  • Bend Business Roundup 9-6-19

    By on September 6, 2019

    Happy Friday,

    Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: Here at EagerLaw we produce a periodic report called the Bend Entrepreneur Report, which tabulates the number of new Bend businesses registered with the Oregon Secretary of State. We just ran the figures on the May through August time-frame, and the number of new registrations (1,099) is down 9.5 % versus the same time-frame from 2018 (1,203), and about on par with registrations from that timeframe in 2017. To put this in perspective, Bend consistently continues to have more businesses registered per capita compared to any other large-ish Oregon city (other than Keizer, which has something weird going on because come on). Furthermore, the rate of registrations in 2018 was probably unsustainable, given labor and real property constraints. Nonetheless, the pace of new businesses registering in Bend has slowed a bit from the breakneck pace of last year.

    Law: If at least the rate of growth of the local, state and national economies is slowing, then it’s worth taking a peak at something I wrote entitled “Legal Tips for Small Businesses in a Slowing Economy,” which is deserving of praise for its brevity if nothing else.

    Politics: We Oregonians are fortunate to have an improbable defender of our mental health: The Oregon AFL-CIO labor union. The union has filed a ballot measure called the “Grocery Store Service and Community Protection Act” which would cap the number of automatic checkout stations per store at two. As one supposed rationale for its passage, the measure provides, “The increasing use of self-service checkouts – where the customer does not interact with a human – contributes to social isolation and related negative health consequences[.]” Now, I’ve had plenty of positive interactions with grocery cashiers (especially the woman at the Century Drive Safeway who is the Michael Jordan of customer service and probably should be running the whole company), but I like having a choice about what level of interaction I have. For most of us, time is a precious commodity and if getting through the self checkout is faster then I’ll choose to interact with the humans who live with me rather than the humans working at the grocery store.  For those without the opportunity for soul-nourishing interaction with two little boys constantly accusing each other of taking toys from the other, they can always choose the cashier line.

    Et cetera:  Whoever named No Name Lake, a stunning little lake on the flank of Broken Top, is probably pretty frustrated because everyone just uses the name “No Name Lake” so it does have a name after all. For my money, No Name Lake is the most beautiful spot within easy striking distance of Bend. But the lake has fallen on rough times. The troubles likely began in the summer or fall of 2017, when a herd of elk died in an apparent avalanche affecting the glacier directly uphill from the lake. The corpses of the elk revealed themselves in the summer of 2018, when enough snow had melted. Then the decomposing elk tainted the water of the lake. Now so many people people want to camp in close proximity to dead elk that the profusion of their waste has forced the U.S. Forest Service to close the lake to camping. Here’s to everyone treading lightly up there.

    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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  • Legal Tips for Small Businesses in a Slowing Economy

    By on September 6, 2019

    Economic indicators I follow mostly point to a slowing economy, both nationally and here in Bend, Oregon. (Note: I’m not an economist and can’t possibly say with any certainty what state the economy is currently in, let alone what it’s going to be like in the future.) Whether or to what degree the economy is slowing, it will sometime because it always does. It’s worth considering a few steps to make sure our small businesses are in the best shape possible when a downturn does arrive.

    I was practicing business law in Bend during the Great Recession, which hit Bend as hard as almost anywhere. It was tough, both for my business and for the businesses of my clients. A slowdown (or an outright recession) means one primary thing: for a lot of people in a lot of industries there is less money flying around and people and businesses in a marginal position can suffer and, in the case of businesses, go out of business. The following is a list of things to think about implementing to protect your small business from the worst of whatever might be coming:

    1. If you have employees, get a quote from your insurance agent on an employment practices rider on your business insurance policy. Slowdowns often result in layoffs, and any employment termination, even if properly handled by the empoyer, carries the risk of a disgruntled former employee filing a wrongful termination claim, whether justified or not. Employment practices insurance pays, up to a limit, your attorney fees and damages or settlement assessed as a result of many types of employment claims. Often the coverage is quite reasonable, and other than (hopefully obviously) not engaging in anything like unlawful employment conduct, it’s the best protection you can get against a costly employment claim.
    2. If someone owes you money, get it as soon as you can. When we were headed into the recession in around 2007, a real estate investor client asked if he could pay his $8,000 bill to my firm with a credit card. I told him, no, we don’t take credit cards, just pay us with a check. The client filed bankruptcy a while later, and I never did get paid. My firm accepts credit cards now. I don’t know if credit cards are the right thing for your business, but the point is it is likely to get harder to collect from people soon, if it hasn’t already. If you have an opportunity to get payment – even partial payment if from a shaky client – take that now because it might not be there soon.
    3. Sort out ownership/control issues now if you can. Many small businesses have latent ownership or control disputes that have been papered over by the good times. When there’s lots of money, people in business together tend to get along pretty well. When things get tough, and there’s less money to go around, those latent disputes come to the surface, at the worst possible time, because there’s less money to buy out a partner or even hire an attorney to fix things. Think about whether there are any uncertainties in the ownership or control structure of your business now, before things (maybe) get bad.

    Everyone’s business is different, but the items above apply throughout most small businesses, and at least merit a bit of thought. Hopefully the economy continues to grow and we don’t have to worry about a sustained slowdown, but a prudent business person doesn’t only plan for the best case scenario.

    Jeff Eager is a business attorney at EagerLaw PC, in Bend, Oregon. He can be reached at (541)323-5850 or jeff@eagerlawpc.com.

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  • Bend Business Roundup 8-30-19

    By on August 30, 2019

    Happy Friday,

    I didn’t send an email last week because I was (and still am until tomorrow) on vacation in Southern California with the family. We’ve stayed in Huntington Beach, Encinitas and now Mission Beach in San Diego. Because Bend’s fortunes seem increasingly tied to California, I thought I’d use this week’s edition to offer up some thoughts on what I’ve seen and been thinking about down here.

    Business: The three places we’ve stayed are comparable to Bend in that they are all thought of by many as desirable places to live, and they have the housing prices to show it. I know they are not representative of all of CA, much as Bend is not representative of all of OR. In Bend, we all talk about how expensive it is to live there, and how everyone wants to live there, but these places are that on steroids. People down here think worrying about a median home price of $470k is, well, quaint. A million bucks here gets you a 1,500 square foot fixer upper in a decent neighborhood. To the degree Bend competes with a place like Encinitas (pop. approximately 60,000) as an escape from more urban parts of Southern California, Bend is still a relative bargain. But it’s cold in the winter in Bend, and it’s remote. I told a guy here in San Diego yesterday that it gets below zero for at least a few days every winter in Bend and he just kind of stared at me like I stare at an astronomer who tells me that there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on all the beaches on planet Earth. It’s really hard to put some things in perspective.

    Law: We’ve all become accustomed to warning signs about various things that might hurt us, from tobacco to alcohol to all that stuff on the visors of our cars about the importance of not rolling our cars over. California has taken the whole warning thing to another level entirely with Proposition 65, which requires any establishment selling products containing any chemical the state has designated as causing cancer to post a warning to that effect. We took the boys to Legoland the other day and there’s just a warning when you enter the place that somewhere therein you may be exposed to chemicals “known by the State of California to cause cancer.” The phraseology is creepy (how does a state know something?) and the warnings are so ubiquitous that I doubt they materially change behavior.

    Politics: In Oregon, all the most desirable places to live (measured by property values) are liberal, and usually outspokenly so. Drive around Portland, its nicer suburbs, Ashland, Hood River, or Bend and you’ll see all manner of political signage and plenty of COEXIST stickers and those eARTh bumper stickers that I don’t remotely understand and which aren’t themselves necessarily liberal but always seem to occupy the same bumpers as these puppies. That’s not the case in the places we’ve been in California (and driving in between those places too). There’s very little political stuff to be seen. I’m sure it’s prevalent in other spots, e.g. Berkeley, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a little self-selection of more activist progressive types picking up and moving from California to the PNW.

    Et cetera:  Alright, I know you’ve been waiting for this so let’s talk about the roundabouts. I mean the roundabouts in Bend, where the drivers of cars bearing California plates seem unusually befuddled. I am not admitting but I am not not admitting that I may have made disparaging remarks about such Californians when I’ve been in a hurry to get around town, remarks which I regret. As punishment for my indiscretions, God has seen fit to provide us with a rented minivan with Arizona plates here in Southern California. It turns out Californians hate Arizona drivers with the searing heat of a thousand suns.  While most drivers have been very accommodating, a few have repaid my geographic bias.

    We’ll turn from this weird form of travel writing to our normal format of weird other writing next week. 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 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!

    Read more
  • 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