Business - Courtney Sherwood
The sky is the limit, or so it seems, when it comes to collecting, organizing, and dispensing information. The cloud has become our chosen image for seemingly limitless information storage warehouses, reflecting our confidence that all information soon will be at our fingertips all the time.
When James Hansen says he was too hopeful about the potential impacts of climate change, you know it's time to pay attention -- and to act.
Today’s paper includes a stand-alone Business section, but for the rest of the past week The Columbian’s business pages were a little harder to find. Monday through Saturday, our stocks page, local reporting, and coverage of national and global financial news now begin inside the Clark County section, as of last week.
‘Shop local” is a rallying cry small stores usually direct at shoppers, regardless of where those stores buy their own supplies. But more and more often, businesses that want their customers to stay close to home are practicing what they preach.
All the recent headlines about what isn’t getting done in our nation’s capital left me wondering what overlooked legislation local business people should know about. Here’s a roundup of business-related congressional actions taken since summer — and why they matter to Clark County’s economy:
Is the sun setting on Clark County solar opportunities? Or does the sector offer bright opportunities for job creation here? Already, the greater Portland-Vancouver metro area has a foothold in solar, thanks to SolarWorld in Hillsboro, Ore., which claims to be America’s largest, most advanced photovoltaic production site. Japanese corporation Sharp this year chose to base its U.S. solar operations in Camas. Vancouver silicon manufacturer SEH America has hinted that it might venture into the field.
National, global forces determine economy’s direction, but local choices still play a role
Clark County’s economy managed to tread water in the third quarter of 2011, but struggling businesses and unemployed workers were still at sea in the July to September period. And even normally optimistic economists don’t expect the county — or the state or nation — to come ashore in the foreseeable future. Staying afloat at least beats drowning, which the pessimists fear.
We’ve got 14 million unemployed people in the U.S., close to 26,000 of them in Clark County alone. More than one in eight local people is living without health insurance. Housing prices remain low, wages stagnant, and several of Oregon’s top economists put the odds at 40 percent that that state is heading for a double dip recession. Oh, and our country’s political leaders seem unable or unwilling to do anything about it — if they really have the power to fix this mess, anyway. Yet there’s something to be said for counting our blessings. As bad as things are in the United States, we still have it pretty good.
Give a business a $1 million break on taxes and fees: Good idea or bad? It depends on the business, the types of taxes we’re talking about, and how we tell the story, to look at two recent local examples.
Tough times can draw us closer together, uniting our community behind a common vision of the future. Or adversity can tear us apart, as we vie for access to scarce resources.
When Keith Scott read the comments other small-business owners delivered to U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, on Aug. 8, he was puzzled. The statements seemed to imply that small businesses have special tax disadvantages, and that proposed increases to personal income tax would make things even worse.
It’s three years off, 3,500 miles away, a $10 billion project that at first glance seems to have little bearing on life in the Pacific Northwest. But when crews finish deepening and widening the 48-mile Panama Canal to allow more ships easy passage from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic, there could be devastating consequences for thousands of workers at West Coast ports. That Port of Vancouver leaders aren’t sweating is a testament to the strengths of Clark County’s biggest port.
Forget alternative energy or high-tech health care. Clark County’s developing a niche with no help from the economic development experts: vice. Just look at the evidence. Booze, gambling and drugs are all growing sectors in our economy, bringing in millions of dollars and likely employing hundreds of local people. The booze is the least controversial. As reporter Sue Vorenberg writes in today’s Life section, Vancouver’s got a burgeoning beer scene, with a handful of established microbrew pubs and tasting rooms already here and more on the way. Clark County also has a small but growing wine scene, with Three Brothers Winery, East Fork Cellars and Gouger Cellars Winery all earning awards in recent years. Beyond locally made drinks, Clark County liquor sales are up 35 percent to $38.2 million over the past decade, when adjusted for inflation, according to the state Liquor Control Board.
It’s probably not a good sign that Clark County’s chief cable regulator is just as confused about Comcast’s rates as the rest of us. “It is difficult trying to find the rates on the website — I can’t find them,” said Jim Demmon, director of the City/County Cable Office. “We do get a rate sheet here each year, but for new customers you see one rate, for existing it’s another, by the time you add in different factors it’s very frustrating. And we can’t require them to make it available to the public.”
Driving her boss to the edge of sanity could turn out to be the best thing MaryAnne Randall has ever done. The 43-year-old Volkswagen saleswoman takes great care to project a professional image — hair, makeup, lipstick, clothes. And, yes, acrylic fingernails that clatter loudly against most computer keyboards.