Updates

  • Bend Business Roundup 4-12-19

    By on April 12, 2019

    Happy Friday,

    Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: Many of us who lived through the rapid rise of housing prices in Central Oregon in the mid-2000s , followed by the even more rapid plummet in the Great Recession, have viewed the price increases we’ve seen since around 2012 with some suspicion. Happy things are better; scared that we’re being set up for another fall. The good news, state regional economist Damon Runberg says, is that we are not in another bubble. Unlike the last run-up in prices, this one is based on real housing demand, not speculation. The bad news?  We aren’t building nearly enough housing units to keep up with new residents let alone fill the backlog. Builders lack sufficient labor and land to build enough housing units to keep pace.

    Law: Sometimes the law works the way you’d think; sometimes it doesn’t. One aspect of the law that I’ve found surprises some clients, even pretty sophisticated business clients, is that in Oregon, unless a statute or contract provides otherwise, each party to litigation pays its own attorney fees, regardless of the outcome of the case. So if you’re sued by someone and win, even if the case appears to have been mostly baseless, absent an applicable statute or contract to the contrary, you’re paying your own legal fees. This is called the “American rule,” whereas a system that defaults to awarding attorney fees to the winner is called the “English rule.” So you can blame George Washington et al. if you end up in the situation described above.

    Politics: You may have noticed some restaurants (and maybe bars, but I would never enter into such dens of iniquity so I don’t know, thank you very much) are switching from plastic to other types of straws. Invariably, the non-plastic straws are worse than the plastic kind for performing the job of straws, but the plastic kind, we are told, are bad for animals and don’t decompose, etc. Well, the Oregon Senate believes the pace of change is insufficient, and has passed a bill that forbids restaurants and convenience stores from dispensing single-use plastic straws to customers unless the customer asks for one. In its present form, the bill does not require the customer to say “pretty please” while asking, but we’ll see what happens in the House.

    Et cetera:  Beginning in, say, the 1970s it was common to believe that the rapidly increasing global human population would so deplete the Earth’s resources that people would lack food and fuel, causing all kinds of social strife. Well, it turns out the opposite has happened. In fact, as population increased by 69% from 1980 to 2017, inflation-adjusted resource prices actually fell by 36%.  It is worth noting that in that same timeframe billions of people in eastern Europe and China stopped living under purely communist regimes and starting living in more or less market capitalist regimes. It turns out more people – even lots more people – living freely makes resources more abundant for all of us.

    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 4-5-19

    By on April 5, 2019

    Happy Friday,

    Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: A new study shows that U.S. geographic income disparities rose sharply between 1980 and 2013. In other words, a few high-income places like San Francisco, Seattle, New York, and, especially, Washington, D.C. got a lot wealthier. Meanwhile a whole bunch of 1980’s middle-of-the-road income areas (like much of Oregon, including Central Oregon) shifted into below-median-income territory by 2013. People with high incomes are clustering in a few mostly-coastal cities (and North Dakota, presumably due to the oil boom there). I’ll be curious to see if this trend continues, or whether the outflux of high-income people from expensive, crowded places like the Bay Area to less expensive places like Bend and Portland has dented the trend.

    Law: When someones sells a business, the seller is often contractually prohibited from soliciting employees from the business he or she just sold. Understandably, the buyer doesn’t want key employees hired away by the old boss. Well, the guy who founded Pacific Foods, which I think pioneered the practice of putting soup in cardboard cartons specifically designed to spill when you finally wrench them open, sold the business to Campbell Soup. Campbell is now suing, claiming the seller recruited eight employees to work in his new business. I don’t know the details of this case, but because sales contracts typically prohibit the seller from soliciting for hire former employees, there is often a fact question about whether they were recruited or proactively sought out employment with the old boss.

    Politics: For those who didn’t get enough of my Tom McCall screed in the last BBR, The Bulletin published my op-ed that touches on him and the impact of anti-growth sentiment on Oregon housing prices.

    Et cetera:  Allow me to ask a delicate question: have you ever driven east of Bend? And no, not to the Badlands, but farther out than that? There’s a lot of cool stuff out there, especially if you appreciate wide open spaces and really high cow-to-human and F-350-to-Audi ratios. If you do go east, toward Burns, the first, ah, loosely speaking, civilization you’ll come to is the ghost town of Millican. Millican used to be a happening spot until its one resident passed away. Now its current owner has a pretty cool website with photos and old newspaper articles about the town.

    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 3-29-19

    By on March 29, 2019

    Portrait

    Happy Friday,

    Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: The Oregon legislature is apparently considering things like a Commercial Activities Tax (CAT) and a Value Added Tax (VAT) to raise the $2 billion in revenue the Governor says Oregon needs. I’ve never heard of a CAT, but – hear me out here –  does it make sense to tax, and therefore deter, commercial activities or adding value? Aren’t these things generally good?

    Law: If you were on a transatlantic flight and a fellow passenger threatened to kill you with an ice pick, you’d be miffed, no? Well, a couple is suing Condor Airlines (FYI – there’s a thing called Condor Airlines) for $10 million for just that set of alleged facts. A warrant for the arrest of the person who allegedly threatened the gruesome murder issued out of Bend, Oregon of all places.

    Politics: I was researching former (and late) Oregon governor Tom McCall because that’s what dudes who sculpt the likeness of the US Capitol instead of doing normal high school things do for fun. Anyway, it occurred to me that you can draw a pretty straight line between McCall’s famous plea with tourists to Oregon not to “move here” to our state’s land use system (championed by McCall), which makes it really expensive to move or stay here, to our current predicament regarding a lack of affordable housing. Unaffordable housing is a key consequence of the social compact (many) Oregonians have made with their state government since the early 1970s, but I’m not sure they know it.

    Et cetera:  Another thing about Tom McCall that may be of interest, since this is a Central Oregon-originated email, is that he grew up (when not on the family estate in Massachusetts) on a ranch east of Redmond. His grandfather was a copper baron and his dad was a governor and congressman back east. It turns out McCall was a pioneer of the now well-known phenomenon of east coast trust funders coming to Oregon and, depending on your point of view, preserving our state’s natural beauty/telling us what to do with our property.

    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 3-22-19

    By on March 22, 2019

    Happy Friday,

    Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: Historically, farming in Deschutes County has mostly resulted in the growth of rural mansions and lots of rocks. First marijuana and now its cousin hemp may be changing that. Deschutes County is the third-biggest producer of hemp in Oregon. And this fact really shocked me: according to the story linked above, hemp is expected to soon overtake cattle as the second most valuable agricultural commodity produced in Oregon.

    Law: It wouldn’t surprise me if lawyers were invented in order to handle legal disputes between neighbors. Those disputes can be pretty nasty, in part because the parties can’t really completely avoid each other, and there are lots of ways for them to mess with each other. Including, allegedly in the case of two feuding Terrebonne neighbors, piling 20 feet of snow to block the driveway of one of the neighbors.

    Politics: The current session of the Oregon legislature is nothing if not entertaining, if your idea of entertainment is watching B-level horror movies, you know the ones that are more scary-bad than scary-scary. Oregon is hoovering in its highest revenue ever, yet will have to make deep cuts to some services, and the Governor wants a $2 billion increase in business taxes and maybe confiscate personal income tax refunds (called the “kicker”) to pay down the state’s pension obligations. How can we make this dire fiscal situation better? Oh yeah, give state lawmakers a 63% raise.  Scary bad.

    Et cetera:  I have a confession. I’ve never been to a Chick-Fil-A or eaten its food. Not for any reason other than I mostly haven’t lived places where they are. But that is – God willing – about to change. Construction should begin on Bend’s first Chick-Fil-A this summer. Based on the media coverage, this might be the most anticipated event in Bend’s history since at least the eclipse or maybe even since C-Span came to town to commemorate Socialist presidential candidate Frank T. John perishing while trying unsuccessfully to save a boy from drowning in Mirror Pond in 1928.

    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 3-15-19

    By on March 15, 2019

    Happy Friday, Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: It’s easy sometimes to forget the remarkable size and shear wealth generated by the U.S. economy, until you run into something like this: there are now more millionaires in the U.S. than there are people in Sweden or Portugal. And for those of you who, like me, thought, “Oh that’s a bunch of people who’ve owned a home since 1980 in San Francisco that’s now worth $2.5 million,” the calculation actually excludes the value of primary residences.

    Law: Sometimes lawyers like to use words that the general population doesn’t know to make ourselves seem smart and to keep ourselves in business. One such word, often found in commercial leases, is “attornment.” That’s just a fancy way of saying that the tenant agrees to abide by the lease even if the landlord sells the property to a new owner. There, now you too can charge people by the hour to explain that word to them*. You’re welcome!

    Politics: If you really want to have more affordable housing in Bend and make more employment land available for jobs that pay enough allow people to live here, you need two things right off the bat. The first is available land, which Oregon makes unnecessarily difficult and Bend has some but not much control over. The other is infrastructure, primarily streets and sewer, to serve what land is available. That’s why it’s important when the City Council sets transportation spending priorities with the $32 million it thinks it will have available in the next few years. The Council is likely to seek a property tax-funded bond in 2020 which would allow for more transportation improvements, which would make more money available for more projects.

    Et cetera: You’ve probably heard that Bend is home to Earth’s last Blockbuster Video. That’s cool, but I’m here to verify something else related to at-home movie viewing on the high desert. Back when my family first moved to Bend in the late 80s, I remember hearing that Bend had the highest rate of VCR ownership in the U.S. Some internet sleuthing just now did not confirm or deny what I’d heard. Any of you old timers, let me know if you know anything about this. If you’re young, FYI: a VCR was like a cassette tape player but for . . . oh, well, never mind. 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.

    *Except you can’t legally charge people for legal advice unless you’re a lawyer because, well, lawyers.

    Have a great weekend!

    Read more
  • Bend Business Roundup 3-8-19

    By on March 8, 2019

    Happy Friday,

    Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: The headline “Bend home sales drop to late-2007 level” makes those of us who were in Bend for the Great Recession rock back and forth while hugging ourselves. February home sales dropped to 106 for the month, down 34.5% from a year ago. Let’s hope this is a result of Snowmageddon 2.0, shall we?

    Law: If you think you are an independent contractor or employ independent contractors, there is a really good chance you actually are an employee or have employees under Oregon law. The state government and unions, to the degree one can meaningfully distinguish between those entities, really dislike independent contractors and have been waging a decades-long battle to make independent contractor relationships as rare as possible. A bill in the legislature, HB 2498, is the latest salvo. The bill states that someone who provides services for someone else cannot be an independent contractor if the services provided are in the usual course of the other person’s business. So, a personal trainer working at a gym might no longer be an independent contractor, etc.

    Politics: On August 22, 2018, Oregon Governor Kate Brown was in a tight re-election fight against challenger Knute Buehler. An independent group was running ads attacking Brown’s record on child care. On that date, a nine-month-old baby boy was found unconscious at a state-regulated daycare with a history of regulatory infractions in Lane County. Two days later, the baby died. On the date the baby died, the regulatory agency in charge of child care sent Brown’s office a proposed press statement regarding the death, consistent with prior state practice of disclosing such deaths “in a timely manner” as required by federal regulations. There were communications between the agency and the governor’s staff, the content of which was redacted from a public records production to the Oregonian, and no disclosure was made until the Oregonian recently inquired about the death. The state maintains that there’s nothing to see here – that the failure to disclose was justified under the law and was not politically motivated. However, the sequence of events as reported by the Oregonian indicates the failure to disclose may well have been politically motivated. If the legislature, which funds the relevant state agency and writes child care laws, does not undertake a real, bipartisan investigation of this tragedy, why do we have a legislature at all?

    Et cetera:  A month ago, I let you know about a new nonprofit called Local Voter Project, which raises money to buy introductory Bend Bulletin subscriptions for newly registered Bend voters. The purpose is to provide new voters the information they need to be involved in our local government and civic life, and to support local journalism of the type that uncovered the important story described in the section above. I am very grateful to the generous Bend Business Roundupers who contributed to the cause. We are planning to buy the first round of subscriptions toward the end of this month. We would love to buy 100 subscriptions, which would cost around $6,500. We have a ways to go to meet that goal. If you feel like helping out, you can donate here. Thank you!

    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