Strictly Business: Workers to be in spotlight

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian Business Editor



Procrastination can be an enemy of progress, which is why we should make resolutions on New Year’s Day and set goals during the rest of the year.

One of my goals for the new year was to give a final rest to our long-standing business feature, called “Clark County at Work,” and replace it with something that would open up more expansive story possibilities. Beginning Monday, we launch a new feature called “Working in Clark County.” The title sounds familiar, and the new feature should feel that way as well. The twist is that “Working in Clark County” focuses not on businesses but rather on the people who work for those businesses.

Our profile subjects will be business executives, minimum-wage workers, or anyone in between. They will be employed by businesses, nonprofits, community organizations, or governments. We will ask them to share professional and personal insights and anecdotes about their jobs, their favorite hangouts, what they’ve done well and what they wish they could do over. Mary Ricks, the Columbian staff member who has tirelessly produced the “Clark County at Work” feature since 2008, will take the lead in producing the new worker profiles.

The quick-hit, heavily formatted “Clark County at Work” has been a staple of this newspaper’s business report since its debut on July 16, 2001. Since our first, painfully short, feature on Staircrafters, a stairway manufacturer still operating in Vancouver, we’ve run hundreds of “At Work” business features about companies ranging from a single employee to the large Pendleton Woolen Mill in Washougal,

Ricks found companies to profile on her drives around Clark County or through tips from readers, Columbian staff members, and friends. Some business owners would pitch their companies as profile candidates. But the search became increasingly difficult over the years. Large companies wouldn’t make the time to participate, and didn’t care about the publicity. But small companies were sometimes too small, or too new, to merit a full-blown feature.

Ricks said she is looking forward to the much larger pool of profile possibilities under the new format. You can help, of course, by offering your suggestions of people who deserve to be introduced to the larger community.

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While we’re on the subject of The Columbian, now would be a good time to sign up for this year’s Economic Forecast Breakfast, taking place Thursday, Jan. 23 at the Hilton in downtown Vancouver. The forecast breakfast has been around a long time, but we’re shaking up the format to bring new energy and introduce more people to the community.

This year’s keynoters are Scott Bailey, regional economist for the state Employment Security Department; Jon Roberts, economic consultant for TIP Strategies, based in Austin, Texas, and Rick Goode, president and CEO of Columbia Machine, based in Vancouver.

For the first time, four local students will offer their views about business and career opportunities. And we’re offering free tickets to the first 50 students who register. Please join us by signing up at