Strictly Business: Promise, prosperity in forecast

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian Business Editor



Columbian’s Economic Forecast Breakfast, an annual January event, has rolled with our county’s rising and sinking tides over many years.

These days are somewhere in between those good and bad times. Employment is on the rebound, yet many are living with less income or without jobs. And our growing sense of optimism is severely tested by out national, state, and local political dysfunction over budgets, bridges, and even business recruitment.

These realities will frame The Columbian’s 2014 Economic Forecast Breakfast, which has the theme of “Turning promise into prosperity.” We’ve worked to recruit speakers and adjust our format to reflect the complexities of our times, and to help provide not just a forecast but also insight into how we all can help each other build on our community’s strengths in the year ahead.

We’ll be repeating last year’s keynote format by offering three main speakers. Jon Roberts is an economic development strategist based in Austin, Texas, who immersed himself in the local economy when his firm TIP Strategies Inc. was hired in 2011 to create a strategy for the Columbia River Economic Development Council, the region’s primary jobs recruiter. His is the perspective of a skilled observer of a community’s promise and perils.

Scott Bailey, well-known locally for his many years as regional economist for the state Employment Security Department, will offer an insider’s view of our strengths and weaknesses in adjusting to fast-changing employment and workforce challenges.

Rick Goode, president and CEO of Columbia Machine Inc., a Vancouver-based manufacturer of concrete products-making equipment and package-moving palletizers, will provide a local perspective on manufacturing and export opportunities.

For 2014 we have organized our panels by theme, rather than industry, and speakers will focus on tips for success rather than forecasts. Each has four speakers and a local moderator.

Our “Local Jobs, Local Customers” panel will feature speakers whose products, services, and employment are primarily based in Clark County. The “Building New Markets” panelists will discuss their efforts to grow their products and services beyond the Vancouver-Portland region. An “Innovation and Imagination” panel will feature entrepreneurs, emerging businesses, and groundbreaking companies.

We’ve added for the first time a student panel, called “Voices of Youth,” that will include four local college and high school students discussing their hopes for future careers.

The Columbian’s Business Department is responsible for the event, which has a news focus. Yet the event does need business sponsors, and this year they are Riverview Community Bank, presenting sponsor, and Berger ABAM, The Management Group, and Quail Homes as the supporting sponsors.

The Economic Forecast Breakfast is Thursday, Jan. 23 at the Hilton Vancouver Washington. Sound interesting? Go to here for more information.

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