Updates

  • Bend Business Roundup 4-3-20

    By on April 3, 2020

    Happy Friday,

    Friends, it’s not snowing in Bend today and can I let you in on a little secret? We’re going to be OK. No, really. This pandemic is really serious and it’s awful and it’s going to be bad for a while yet but we are not helpless and there’s reason to be as optimistic as ever even . . .

    If you or a loved one has COVID-19: I’m really sorry. The good news is that the vast majority of people with COVID-19 do not require hospitalization, and recover at home.Even a large majority of those hospitalized recover. Worldwide, more than 200,000 people have contracted the disease and already recovered. It’s very serious, but it’s far from a death sentence.

    If you’re scared about getting COVID-19: It’s good to be concerned and careful and follow the rules, but according to this ICU doc from New York, who treats really sick COVID-19 patients, you shouldn’t be scared. He says we can avoid 99% of possible infections by becoming “hand nazis.” Being constantly aware of what we’re touching and washing/sanitizing our hands before and after touching things other people are touching, and not touching our face (I’ve touched my face three times while writing the section, so I have work to do).

    If you own a small business that’s been hurt by COVID-19: Which is the same thing as “you own a small business,” because outside of a few niche hand sanitizer distilleries and toilet paper boutiques, we’re all being hurt by COVID-19. You’re already taking action to reduce risk and retain cash and make the best of the current situation, but there is also help for some from the feds. Most prominently in the following forms:

    SBA Disaster Loans: If you own a small business and apply and your application is accepted, you apparently get a $10,000 “loan advance”. which you don’t have to pay back. I don’t know why they call it a “loan advance” if you don’t have to pay it back but check out the terms and talk to your CPA about whether the “loan advance” might be taxable before applying.

    Payroll Protection Act: This program goes into effect today, and allows businesses to borrow up to 2.5 times their average monthly payroll or (up to $10 million) to pay for payroll, rent, utilities, mortgage interest and some other business expenses. If you use the funds for payroll, rent, utilities or mortgage interest in the first eight weeks after you receive the money, the loan isn’t a loan anymore and is instead a grant. Again, make sure you read the rules and talk to a CPA or lawyer before you take the plunge.

    These programs won’t solve everything and are not for everyone, and they will surely be delayed and inefficient and frustrating initially because government. My point is that there is reason for hope and you’re definitely not in this alone. The same ingenuity and work ethic that allowed you to start and operate a small business is going to get you through this.

    If you’ve been laid off: Man, I feel you. When I was growing up in the 80s and 90s my dad worked in the wood products industry and if you know anything about that industry in the Pacific Northwest in that time frame, it was bad. He got laid off multiple times as the industry more or less collapsed. It’s awful. Here’s the thing, you and 10 million others in the past two weeks have already applied for unemployment. If your employer receives Payroll Protection Act support, it may be able to hire you back. Also, as the restrictions are eventually lifted, there will be a lot of pent up demand for the stuff that’s been hurt the most, and we’ll see hiring come back. Hang in there and know that (a) this is not your fault, and (b) this, too, shall pass.

    If you live in Oregon: It looks like social distancing is starting to bend the curve and if we keep it up our hospitals won’t be overrun and we will minimize the number of deaths. We’ve got a long way to go, but this is really good news, some of the best in the country that I’ve seen. It gives hope that things can be relaxed here sooner rather than later.

    If you’re stuck at home, bored and have already watched Tiger King: Become a subject matter expert on the question of whether New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has pierced nipples.

    If you’re wondering if we’re going to come out of this: Remember, America has overcome big obstacles before:

    We probably shouldn’t have even made it as a country to begin with. The American colonies had only 2.5 million people in 1776 when some of the colonial leaders told the most powerful nation on planet Earth that we weren’t interested in being owned by them anymore, and by they way their system of government was corrupt and contrary to the nature of human beings.Talk about audacity. And then General Washington got his tail kicked around the colonies by the Brits until he pulled off one of the most consequential surprise attacks in world history.

    Our first system of government sucked. After we beat the Brits, the new states adopted the Articles of Confederation, which provided inadequate power to the federal government to keep the states from fighting with each other and with it. So, only eight years after the Articles were ratified a bunch of really smart guys under no real authority got together in Philadelphia to completely replace our federal system of government. Imagine fighting a long war for independence, starting a new form of government that you have to sack in less than a decade. That would be pretty dispiriting. But the Constitution turned out to be the best political document ever created by human beings.

    The Brits burned down the White House in 1812. The War of 1812 involved a rematch between the U.S. and the British. Things didn’t go well for us initially, and the Brits occupied Washington, D.C. and burned the still pretty new White House after ransacking it. Think about the national mood following that. By the end of the war (and even a little bit after) we were steamrolling the Brits.

    The Panic of 1837 drove unemployment as high as 25% in some areas. Banks failed, the currency was in question and the deep recession lasted seven years. But the economy recovered and today no one who uses their brain cells for actual useful knowledge even knows about the panic.

    As many as 750,000 Americans died as we kept the country together and ended slavery. The Civil War made much of our own country a battlefield and three-quarter of a million people were killed. At the end, the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution more fully realized the liberties for all at the heart of that document.

    America fought its First World War followed immediately by the Spanish Flu. Over 100,000 Americans lost their lives fighting a war in Europe involving chemical weapons  and helped to spread the Spanish Flu around the globe. Five hundred million people (2/3 of the world population) got the disease and 675,000 Americans died from it. The U.S. population was only 103 million at the time. This would be like 2.1 million people dying today. America recovered, and what happened next? The Roaring 20s – an unprecedented stretch of economic and cultural advancement.

    We went from the Great Depression straight into World War II. Between 1929 and 1932, global GDP fell by 15% (for context, it fell by 1% in 2008-2009) and U.S. unemployment was over 20% for a sustained period of time. We were still in the depression when in 1941 the Japanese destroyed most of our Pacific fleet battleships and dragged us into World War II. The American people went from the depravations of the Great Depression to the depravations of war, including wide-scale rationing and 405,000 American war dead (and the shameful detention of Japanese-Americans). At the end of these horrific 16 years of depression and war, we had vanquished the Nazis and the Japanese and freed hundreds of millions of people around the world from the reign of authoritarian regimes. The economy at home was booming, and America was suddenly the most powerful nation on Earth.

    Then we went right into the Cold War and won. The destruction of the fascist regimes in Europe brought with it the ascension of another form of authoritarianism, Soviet communism. While the depravations of the Cold War were felt less severely at home (with the important exception of the loss of life in Korea and Vietnam), Americans lived under the daily threat of nuclear holocaust for decades. Eventually, we stood down the Soviets without incinerating the planet, freeing millions more from authoritarianism in Eastern Europe. All this while giving real effect to the Civil War amendments by passing civil rights laws that once again brought us closer to all Americans realizing the liberties promised in the Constitution.

    We recovered from 9/11 and the Great Recession. In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, most of us thought that major terrorist attacks on U.S. soil would be the new normal. They weren’t. In the depths of the Great Recession later in the decade, many thought the American dream of home ownership and rising incomes was lost forever. It wasn’t.

    The COVID-19 crisis is called a crisis for good reason. But it’s far from the first crisis we Americans have faced. After each one, we’ve come out of it stronger and better. It can feel like we have no control over our situation, and there is a lot that is not in our control. However, if we put this crisis in historical context, and control those things that we can, for the better, this will all be alright.

    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 3-27-20

    By on March 27, 2020

    Happy Friday,

    Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: The graph reflecting the increase in unemployment claims from very small to 3.3 million nationwide in one week probably tells the story as well as anything. About 1 person in every 100 in America (100 people, not 100 workers) lost their jobs in the past week, and we’re just getting started. I used to write in this section that these are the good times economically that we will some day look back on fondly. I didn’t expect to be so right so suddenly.

    This morning, the House passed  a $2 trillion stimulus package that includes increased unemployment benefits, direct payments to some people, depending on income, and bridge loans for small businesses. The Senate passed the bill earlier this week, and the president will presumably sign it right away. Some of the bridge loans won’t need to be paid back so long as they are used on payroll or other qualifying expenses within two months.  And the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. is getting $25 million so at least well-heeled folks in the capital can once again demonstrate how cultured they are once this is all over.

    For most, the business environment is really bad, and the bill may help at the margins. However, the longer the quasi-shutdown remains in place, the more uncertain businesses and consumers will be about what the world is going to look like when the worst of the emergency passes. For example, if you own a restaurant you might be wondering if people will start eating out again once they can.

    In most economic downturns, the government tries to help or at least tries to appear to help, but what it does often has little to do with the outcome and as often as not makes things worse. In this case, the economic shock is being caused primarily by the government’s response to the coronavirus, so government action related, especially, to the degree of quarantine, will be key to improving the situation. More than anytime in any of our lives (unless you were born prior to the end of World War II), we need our elected leaders to, well, lead. More on that in a bit.

    Law: A number of cities in Oregon, including Portland and Bend, outlawed single-use plastic bags and eventually the state followed suit. This has mainly caused me to pay Safeway or Fred Meyer more money for paper bags because I could never remember to bring the reusable ones, but more responsible people like my wife remember to bring the reusable ones from home.

    The coronavirus has a knack for turning everything on its head, and it’s done so with plastic bag bans. Those reusable bags that keep single-use bags out of the landfill also bring with them germs from home to the new epicenter of American life: the grocery store. As a result, Massachusetts is now banning reusable shopping bags, and prohibiting stores from charging for single-use plastic or paper bags, overriding a number of local ordinances. Washington, one of the states hardest hit thus far by coronavirus, is plowing ahead with its single-use plastic bag ban, the governor having just signed the bill.

    Some stores in Central Oregon are forbidding customers from bringing reusable bags inside due to the risk of infection. Oregon’s ban requires the stores to then charge the shoppers for single-use bags. Shoppers are mad at the stores, but they don’t have a choice. When the legislature convenes, it should repeal the ban and allow stores statewide to give shoppers sanitary, single use bags.

    Politics: A couple weeks ago I wrote that the coronavirus was that rarest of creatures these days, a non-partisan thing. Hahaha. That’ll teach me to underestimate partisanship. We’ve seen partisanship rise up in the form of disputes about when to ease off on the quarantine, and whether it’s ok to hold up the stimulus bill in order to require more efficient jet engines in airliners.

    Like nature, politics abhors a vacuum (I just had to Google whether “politics” is singular or plural  . . . I was a politics major). When a vacuum appears in politics, it’s often filled with partisanship because the party we belong to is often a proxy for our worldview. We trust people in our own parties because we think they more or less usually think like us so we don’t have to understand an issue – we just go with what our guy or gal says. I’m not saying that’s good, but the vast majority of people are just not going to invest the time to actually understand the details of most issues to reach an independent conclusion.

    Politicians realize this and act accordingly. Recent elections in the U.S. have tended to be “turnout” elections, in which the leaders of both parties try to maximize turnout among their respective bases by emphasizing issues that are popular with their party but often unlikely to win enough support to become law. Think Medicare for All for Democrats or wall-building at Mexico’s expense for Republicans. There’s really no attempt made to convince the non-believers that it’s the best path forward because the policies are meant primarily to maximize partisan enthusiasm.

    Coronavirus is different. It’s an actual, immediate problem that requires our leaders to develop a strategy and marshal evidence to sway voters of all parties that the strategy is the best one to pursue for now. The problem is that our leaders have been chosen in large measure by the old “fire up the base” approach and it’s no surprise that most of them are proving inept at persuasion of those outside their base.

    Back to the vacuum. In 2020 more than ever, persuasion requires data. We are a cynical people now, because we’ve been burned by politicians many times before and the Internet makes sure we know it. So, no one is going to “just trust” you. Leaders need to bring voters into their decisionmaking process so they can see the logical connection between data and decision. To do that, voters need to have the same data as the decisionmaker. Unlike in war, there is no secrecy imperative to the information surrounding coronavirus. Our leaders should tell us the metrics upon which they are making decisions and share that data with us. Then, we can make educated decisions about whether we’re on the right track or not.

    To Oregon’s credit, it is making more data, including more hospitalization data, available. But additional measures are necessary, including amending HIPAA, the federal law that causes medical offices to send us endless unread notices about their privacy policies but also prevents sharing more specific information about patients suffering from COVID-19. Information like age, underlying conditions, where they live, etc. that can help the public understand the nature of the challenge and the adequacy of our leaders’ response. In times when the rights of so many Americans are being severely curtailed to combat the coronavirus, it’s reasonable to relax patient privacy to ensure that people really understand what’s going on.

    If our leaders would demonstrate to us that they are doing everything possible to empower us as citizens to understand the problem and their solution, they would fill at least part of the vacuum that partisanship relies on. People are paying attention, because their lives depend on it, and they can and will process and use the information they have. If that information is lacking, they’ll return to their partisan trenches, which will harm our ability to get out of this mess.

    Et cetera:  Anna and I don’t get to watch many movies outside the Pixar genre because kids. This week, though, we used the quarantine as an excuse to watch “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” which is the Tom Hanks movie about Mr. Rogers. It’s really, really good. If, like me, you watched Mr. Rogers as a kid, the movie is absolutely captivating. It’s a happy story for a difficult time.

    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 3-23-20

    By on March 23, 2020

    Happy (?) Monday,

    Governor Kate Brown has issued, yesterday and today, sweeping business and social distancing regulations in reaction to the coronavirus. Since a lot of you BBRers are businessfolk, I thought you might appreciate a quick rundown.

    Residential Landlords: The Governor yesterday issued an executive order preventing law enforcement officers from serving any notice or otherwise facilitating the eviction of a residential tenant due to non-payment of rent. Basically, this means that if you want to evict a residential tenant and he or she resists, you’re stuck with ’em because a sheriff’s deputy won’t go out and remove them. The order is in effect for 90 days unless earlier terminated or extended.

    The executive order does not impact the tenant’s obligation to pay rent, so theoretically landlords could pursue eviction for non-payment and/or sue for unpaid rent once the order is lifted. Also, the order does not prevent law enforcement officers from serving and otherwise facilitating evictions for reasons other than nonpayment of rent, so landlords may continue to evict for other violations of the rental agreement or Oregon law by tenants.

    “Non-Essential Businesses” Forced to Close: In a separate executive order issued today, Brown ordered the closure, effective midnight tonight, the closure of certain specific consumer-facing retail and service businesses:
    Amusement parks
    Aquariums
    Arcades
    Art galleries, which are open without appointment
    Boutiques
    Bowling alleys
    Childcare facilities that cannot limit children to 10 who are the same every day. Order is in place from March 25 through April 28.
    Cosmetic shops
    Fraternal organizations facilities
    Furniture stores
    Gyms and fitness studios
    Hair salons and barber shops
    Hookah bars
    Indoor party places, including jumping gyms and laser tag
    Jewelry shops and boutiques, unless they use pick-up or delivery services
    Malls, both indoor and outdoor
    Medical and facial spas, day spas and massage therapy services
    Museums
    Nail and tanning salons
    Non-tribal card rooms
    Outdoor sports courts
    Playgrounds
    Pools
    Private and public campgrounds
    Senior activity centers
    Social and private clubs
    Skate parks
    Skating rinks
    Ski resorts
    State executive branch offices and buildings “shall close to the maximum extent possible”
    Tattoo and piercing parlors
    Tennis clubs
    Theaters
    Yoga studios
    Youth clubs

    Retail Businesses not listed above: They must designate a Social Distancing Czar (my term, not hers) to ensure that everyone stays six feet apart and otherwise follow the Oregon Health Authority’s social distancing rules (which I would link to except the State of Oregon’s website is not so conveniently down). If they can’t comply with the rules, they need to close down. Grocery stores, health care, medical and pharmacy services are not subject to this rule, but are encouraged to follow social distancing rules.

    Restaurants and Bars: They are unaffected by the new order – they continue to be closed to in-house dining but may provide carryout and delivery.

    Everything else: All the businesses and nonprofits (and basically all business offices) not listed above may remain open. Office businesses must have employees work remotely to the extent possible. If remote working is not possible for all employees, then the business must designate a Social Distancing Czar.

    Travel Restrictions: In an oddly worded section, the order provides, “Individuals are directed to minimize travel, other than essential travel from a home, residence or workplace; for obtaining or providing food, shelter, essential consumer needs, education, health care, or emergency services” etc. I’m not sure the language of the order is as strict as the Governor is making it out to be, but the intent is clearly to restrict travel by Oregonians.

    Impact: The biggest impact will be on the long list of businesses that are forced to close completely. Some of those may have already closed voluntarily, but others, for example salons, likely had not. The closure will lead to another round of layoffs as we’ve seen with restaurants and bars. Many businesses (like mine) will be allowed to continue because I can, in theory, work from home as I am right now. All retail, even those not closed, will probably suffer even more as the travel restrictions at least strongly discourage Oregonians from non-essential trips.

    Is it worth it?: The fact is we don’t know. In the Governor’s press release, she says the intent of the new measures is to “flatten the curve,” and prevent the caseload from swamping hospital capacity and ultimately to save lives. That’s a goal that we can all get behind, but as the economic toll of these increasingly restrictive measures increases, the Governor must be more specific about key issues like the following:

    – Using some publicly available metric such as positive CoVid-19 test results, what is the goal of these new measures? For example, is the goal to see a reduction in new daily cases by a date certain? Oregonians, and I would think policymakers, need to have some way to determine whether the measures are having their intended effect, because we know that the side-effects are horrendous.

    – What was the goal of the earlier measures like the social distancing guidelines and bar/restaurant restrictions? Those measures presumably have been deemed inadequate but on what basis? What would success have looked like?

    – How, in reference to a publicly available metric, will we know when the measures have either succeeded in their goal or failed, so that we can move on to fewer or different measures that are more effective?

    Given the unprecedented interruption in personal and economic life being enacted by the Governor, it’s critical that we be able to judge the efficacy of those measures. The Governor is in a terribly difficult situation, making very hard decisions – it would help the hundreds of thousands of Oregonians whose lives have been turned upside down understand why that is if there are clear goals and measurements for success or failure.

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  • Bend Business Roundup 3-20-20

    By on March 20, 2020

    Happy Friday,

    Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: Government’s response to the coronavirus includes what I think may be the most intensive intervention in the economy in American history. The New Deal dictated agricultural production limits and various other rules designed to prop up prices; World War II brought rationing. To the best of my knowledge, the government has never forced the closure of previously lawful businesses on the scale that Oregon and other states and localities are doing with restaurants and bars. California has ordered residents not to go to work unless they work in “critical sectors.”

    I do not envy the governors and others making excruciating decisions that upend numerous of their constituents’ lives, and I am sure they are doing the best they can with the information available to them. Moreover, they should be given significant grace as they probably are hedging against the worst outcomes among many outcomes that may arise out of this crisis.

    However, at some point, and I suspect that point will come soon, there will be increased pressure on government to explain to its citizens why harsh measures and the economic calamity they cause continue to be the best approach. What are the reasonably likely trade offs between increasingly severe measures and less onerous measures, in terms of human lives and the economy? If, in fact, the need for harsh measures may exist for 12-18 months , people are going to start wondering about alternatives.

    The biggest hurdle in defining the risk and the trade offs and possibly in better targeting measures at those populations most affected, and thus relieving those populations less affected, is the woeful inadequacy of testing capacity in the U.S. The lack of testing prevents more accurate projections of transmission and death rates, which leads to such a wide variance in possible outcomes. Which forces officials to make policy mostly in the dark, and hedge against a worst case scenario the likelihood of which we don’t really know with good certainty. Testing is key for knowing where we are, where we’re likely going and, critically, when policy makers can relax their grip. A lot of the economic problem now is the uncertainty of the duration of all of this.

    Fortunately, localities are stepping in with new approaches to testing, and so are philanthropists.We Americans have a history of reacting to crises slowly but eventually with overwhelming force and effectiveness. Let’s all hope that pattern is repeated here.

    Law: It’s not often that I get to use my French minor. My wife and I spent part of our honeymoon in France years ago, during which on numerous occasions I tried speaking in French to French people and each time they just started talking to me in English because my French was, uh, bad. Anyway, there’s this concept in contract law called “Force Majeure” which I think is one of the coolest terms in the law but one that almost never is a real issue. Basically, a Force Majeure clause typically excuses one or both parties to a contract from the obligation to do what they promise to do in the contract if some big surprise outside the control of the parties makes performing impossible.

    Something like a pandemic and government closure of businesses and events, for example. Something tells me we are or will soon break a record for exercising force majeure clauses.

    Politics: So the politics has become predictably stupid. Basically, people appear to be broken into about four categories based upon their political response to the pandemic:

    1. People who insist upon calling the virus the “China virus” or something similar to that because it makes other people mad. I personally don’t care what one calls the virus, but these people should stop doing this because it gives those other people a reason not to look seriously at the role the Chinese government had in destroying evidence of the coronavirus early on and otherwise concealing from the world the truth of the threat posed by it. Now China is on a PR binge trying to blame the origin of the virus on the U.S. military, and otherwise avoiding blame. One of the many things that need to be re-assessed in the wake of this crisis is our relationship with China, and fighting about what to call the virus makes that more difficult.

    2. People who are insulted or pretend to be insulted by calling the virus the “Chinese virus” or similar. They should stop because the virus did originate in China and it is not racist to say that and they’re just serving to rile up category 1. The Chinese government is using and magnifying this impulse to cover up its own role in the crisis. One can at once place blame on the Chinese government AND place blame on U.S. officials for a poor response, especially when it comes to testing.

    3. People who happen to serve in Congress and happen to have received a classified briefing about the severity of the pandemic and happen to have sold millions of dollars of stock soon after that briefing and well before they or others signaled to the public just how bad this would be and before the market tanked. Unless these folks have a really good explanation, they should resign now.

    4. The vast majority of people who don’t think about politics in times like this and are worried about making the rent or mortgage payment and keeping their families safe and healthy. These people should probably keep doing that.

    Et cetera: My God, that was depressing. Nothing that some Oregon vodka made from cow’s milk can’t solve!

    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 3-13-20

    By on March 13, 2020

    Happy the Most Friday the 13th Friday the 13th of All Time,

    Here’s some stuff you might like reading in your bunker.

    Business: I was born in 1975. I’ve been through two events that rapidly and fundamentally changed Americans’ lives for the worse: the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the Great Recession, kicked off by the collapse of Lehman Brothers on September 15, 2008. Now I have a third: coronavirus. There’s the same feeling of a downward spiral to the news cycle, leaving us to wonder, how bad is this going to get?

    One of the at once fortunate and unfortunate traits of our era is that we are all cynics. We know that everyone has a bias and an angle and they’re probably using us to try to make money or win votes. The cynicism’s a good thing in that it’s almost always true; it’s bad in that when we really need information there’s no one we trust. If you’re like me, you’ve been wondering just how big a deal the coronavirus is, or, more to the point, whether the closures, cancellations and warnings are overkill.

    The best source I’ve found for information on the appropriate public health response to the virus is, as on so many topics, facebook, where I read that drinking bleach can cure the disease. Nah, it’s Scott Gottlieb, who’s an MD and formerly head of the Food and Drug Administration. He lays out why, even for healthy younger folks, it’s important to practice social distancing. A lot of it comes down to the availability of hospital beds and especially ICU beds. If they get filled up, then mortality rates go way up like they did in China, Italy and Iran. If we can slow the spread of the disease by having less direct contact with other people, then we keep the demand for hospital beds within the supply and a lot fewer people die. This is the “flatten the curve” thing people are talking about.

    Fewer people dying is a manifestly good thing, but it will also help prevent further panic and disruption. An outbreak in which a bunch of people get sick and the sickest are able to get good care in hospitals is a re-inforcement of the stability of the health care system and society generally; an outbreak in which the health care system clearly cannot meet demand results in a lot more deaths and social disruption. The economic consequences are already severe – by following appropriate measures we can limit the duration and scope of those consequences, and preserve more of the liberties that define us as Americans. If we fail, the disruptions to our lives will be longer-lasting and perhaps permanent.

    Coronavirus is one of those rare creatures in modern America: it ought to and largely has transcended partisan politics. If we all do our part, this thing will be over soon and we can go back to fighting about stuff that matters a lot less.

    Law: NBA, March Madness, Major League Baseball, schools and all kinds of other businesses and government entities have cancelled events.  Have they done so in part due to fear of lawsuits from people who get sick and maybe die because they were at an event? You bet. It’s a big factor, and so is wanting to appear to be conscious of customers’ and workers’ fears.

    While the motives are largely out of self-interest, the effect is likely to benefit us all by reducing in-person human interaction. Come to think of it, it’s a really good example of Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand” theory. Our litigation system has a lot of downsides, but one upside in light of our current crisis is that it forces potential defendants to value human lives very highly, in dollars. The result is that businesses and local/state government should, if not immediately but soon, if anything overreact to keep people from contracting the disease. The litigiousness of Americans, a trait about which I am often skeptical, will probably help us pull out of this sooner than we otherwise would.

    Politics: Coronavirus is like a series of hand grenades going off in races up and down the ballot. Even those of us who hope for little more than a bland rather than overtly offensive form of incompetence expect our governments – local, state and federal – to have their act together on stuff like this. With the stock market cratering and the economy likely faltering, prior assumptions about the desirable characteristics of elected officials and the likelihood of voters approving incumbents have to go out the window. In 2008, the onset of the Great Recession rocked races from the Presidency on down. There’s more time before the election this time but the impact could be as big nonetheless. Buckle up!

    Social Distancing 1:  If you’re looking for something off the beaten and virus-sodden path to do this weekend, you could do worse than Fort Rock. Anna was out of town last weekend, so myself, Aiden (5) and Elijah (3) (jointly, the “EagerBoyz”) drove the 1.25 hours to Fort Rock to indulge in some real eastern Oregon fun. The rock itself is amazing. You can walk around inside of it and make echos and look for petroglyphs and there’s hardly anyone there.

    For lunch, we stopped at The Waterin’ Hole Tavern, where one exceedingly efficient and friendly woman was taking orders, pouring drinks and cooking up some good burgers for ten or so patrons, all on her own. They have electronic darts and a stuffed mountain goat wearing a baseball cap; needless to say, a big thumbs up from the EagerBoyz.

    Social Distancing 2: Friend, do you trust me? If you do, at all, click on this and watch it with the volume on. If you’re social distancing properly, it shouldn’t bother anyone. You won’t be disappointed.

    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 and stay well!

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  • Bend Business Roundup 3-6-20

    By on March 6, 2020

    Happy Friday,

    Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: For the third year in a row, the Milken Institute has named the Bend-Redmond Metropolitan Statistical Area/megalopolis (it’s not really a megalopolis but I like that word) the best-performing small city in the U.S. Factors influencing the ranking include wage growth and job growth.

    Law: I’m not a doctor because the dissection of a fetal pig in Mr. Campagna’s 10th grade biology class was plenty for me and math is hard, but some folks have asked me what small businesses need to be aware of legally in relation to the Coronavirus. This piece, by Lane Powell’s Long Term Care & Senior Living lawyers, goes into detail for the highly regulated and virus-susceptible long term care industry. For other types of businesses, here are a few thoughts:

    1. The business could be liable if you know or should know that someone (customer, employee, etc.) at your business has Coronavirus, and you don’t do anything to protect others from getting sick and they get sick or worse. If you have reason to believe that someone in your business has Coronavirus take reasonable steps to protect others from getting sick, such as by asking the infected person to stay home or leave and consulting with a doctor about how to render the workplace safe again, e.g. by cleaning, etc. Err on the side of caution.

    2. Because infections are still newsworthy, if someone associated with your business gets the virus, you will likely be contacted by health workers and the media. Keep in mind that if the infected person is an employee, you are still subject to employee health confidentiality rules and it’s best not to comment about an employee’s health. If you think an employee has the Coronavirus but the employee has not told you he or she has it, talk to your lawyer before you inquire with the employee.

    3. If you’re sending employees to areas with known infections, consider cancelling or postponing the trip. If you tell them to go to a place you know or should creates an unreasonable risk of infection, and they get sick, you could be liable.

    Politics: If you’re a political nerd (and if you’re reading this you just might be, you know), this has been a big week. The Oregon legislature ended its session early following a Republican walkout and the Democrats’ insistence that the price of re-admission to the capitol was a vote on cap and trade. I’ve beaten this one to death, so I’ll make this short: I think the failure of a bill that would significantly increase costs for Oregon families while having no impact on the climate is a good thing.

    Another piece of good news: Democratic presidential primary voters appear to be in the process of rejecting socialist Bernie Sanders, an outcome that a week ago looked unlikely. While I don’t think Sanders would win the presidency if nominated (and presumably a lot of Dems voting against him think the same thing), the prospect of something approaching half the country rallying around socialism, even in a losing effort, would be really bad. In our negatively polarized national politics (i.e., an enemy of my enemy is my friend regardless of how unpleasant that friend is), lots of people who dislike Donald Trump would probably get dragged closer to or outright accept the premise that we should ditch capitalism in favor of a lot more government ownership of our stuff and control over our lives.

    Anyway, thanks Democrats. Keep it up.

    Et cetera:  Have you seen the sitcom “Modern Family?” An actor named Ty Burrell played the central role of the dad in the show, and was born in Grants Pass, Oregon (home of the not particularly modern-sounding “Caveman” or “Cavemen” high school mascot) and grew up in Southern Oregon. Burrell was recently on Steve Colbert’s show and said about Oregonians, “The most remarkable thing about Oregonians is how unremarkable the accent is . . . . We’re basically a state of newscasters.”

    I’ve heard of this before, including when I lived in DC, where one hears lots of accents from around the country. If it’s true that we PNWers have no accent, which is to say a manner of speaking with the least identifiable regional “sound,” I wonder why? We are about as far-removed from the culture- (and one presumes accent) defining media cities as you can be. You’d think we’d have our own very weird dialect and accent up here. Maybe we just all learned to speak English by watching the news, or we adopted the least-distinct manner of speaking so as not to draw undue attention to ourselves in that shy-ish Northwest style.

    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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