OR Business Community Attains Enlightenment

We are calling this not a mere trend, but a tipping point: Oregon’s business community just went over to the green side. Our evidence is below: articles about the recent business summit and the Oregon Business Plan.

Sustainability is Oregon's claim to fame. We have a reputation, and it rests on the shoulders of progressive leaders going back many years--Tom McCall and Neil Goldschmidt come to mind first. It’s a reputation that can be marketed, branded; using Oregon’s livability and sustainability to bring about more livability and sustainability.

Exhibit A, "Oregon Plan is Tinted Green," Ted Sickinger, Oregonian 1/05/07 [no longer available]:

If one asset defines Oregon internationally, or could make its boom-and-bust economy more globally competitive, it is the state's identity with environmental stewardship and sustainable business practices.

Believe it or not, this message is sponsored by your statewide business community, which is collectively vowing to go green.

Sustainability was the new rallying cry for more than 1,000 business, academic and legislative leaders who packed the Oregon Convention Center on Thursday for a fifth annual leadership summit on Oregon's economy.

It also has become the unifying theme of an economic-development master plan and legislative playbook called the Oregon Business Plan.

Sustainability means different things to different people. But authors of the plan think the concept plays to Oregon's core strengths. Furthermore, it can be infused into many of their initiatives for education, tax reform, health care and economic development. (emphasis added)

The new focus is an outgrowth of last year's leadership summit, where Harvard Business School professor and business-strategy guru Michael Porter urged business leaders to focus their laundry list of initiatives on a competitive theme that would complement the state's economic and cultural strengths.

Porter suggested sustainability as a potentially compelling theme in a state that already has an international reputation for land-use planning and recycling initiatives, specialized expertise in areas such as green building, and large employers, such as Nike, Intel and Hewlett-Packard Co., that have folded sustainability into their strategies and brands.

That’s almost enough that we could rest our case. Oregon business is going green, and this new course will magnify Pringle Creek Community’s influential role as a place, a neighborhood, where every decision is about the future. Here's more from the article:

"Economic development in harmony with our planet is not only the right civic thing to do, it's the right business decision," said Allen Alley, chairman of Tualatin-based Pixelworks Inc. and chairman of the business plan's steering committee. "Many of the keys to how this can be accomplished already exist in this state."

At the summit, Gov. Ted Kulongoski announced that Alley would become his deputy chief of staff focused on technology, energy, transportation and economic development.

Okay, the article does bring up a few bumps in the road.

  • The business group didn’t endorse the governor’s plan to use the corporate kicker for a rainy day fund.
  • The business plan praises a sales tax that was proposed by a bipartisan group. Good luck with that--we can only hope.
  • The plan wants spending on roads to go from $300 million to $500 million (without saying where to get the cash), not a pet project of mine.
  • Some business groups oppose Governor Kulongoski’s proposal to require utilities to provide 25% of retail energy with renewables—because it will make energy too expensive.
  • And finally, there’s widespread agreement that the health care system is unsustainable.
  • So maybe we don’t have an open and shut case for imminent ecotopia. But a lot of folks like the idea of Oregon getting more famous for it’s environmentalism. We can run with that.

    Here is the other article, "Sustainability, Oregon’s brand and niche," Aliza Earnshaw, Portland Business Journal, 1/4/07

    Oregon can--and should--seize the moment and capitalize on its worldwide reputation for sustainability. That was the recurring theme of the opening remarks and first panel discussion at Oregon's fifth economic-development summit, held Thursday [1/4/07] at the Oregon Convention Center.

    The article provides “testimony” in support of our case from these illustrious business persons:

  • John Carter, president and CEO of Schnitzer Steel Industries: sustainability is not an expensive luxury.
  • Dennis Wilde, principal at Gerding/Edlen Development: “building sustainably has become an export industry for Oregon.”
  • Al Gosiak, CEO and president of Pendleton Grain Growers: invest in R&D of biofuel; if a tricky chemical problem can be solved, cellulosic ethanol can be made from grain or dead and diseased wood products.
  • Nancy Floyd, managing director of $400 million firm Nth Power, an energy technology investor: Oregon can be a leader in clean energy.
  • Not necessarily a perfectly representative selection of Oregon business persons. But there is no disputing that more and more Oregon businesses are embracing Oregon's legacy--and creating our heritage. From small community organizations to large corporations, our fair state has leaders showing the way. How cool that we have Nike and HP and not Monsanto and General Dynamics. Oregon has visionaries, pioneers—prime example, John Emrick of Norm Thompson Inc.

    Now Oregon stands at the tipping point, say we. It is a very exciting time to be involved in sustainability. However the opportunity comes to you, embrace it.