Business - Courtney Sherwood
Should we panic, or should we celebrate? Clark County is in the midst of a major leadership shake-up. Washington State University Vancouver, the Columbia River Economic Development Council, Identity Clark County, the Port of Vancouver and the city of Camas will all get new leaders within a single 12-month period.
The folks who have run Nautilus for the past few years might as well have declared “mission accomplished” when they explained their decision to abandon the Vancouver company to reporter Aaron Corvin in Friday’s paper. “A remarkable transformation,” CEO Edward Bramson touted, as he headed for the door. Despite the self-congratulations, the fitness company is a long way from fit.
On stage, gurus held forth on Twitter and news, Twitter during emergencies, Twitter as a business tool. It was the 140 Character Conference Northwest. A chance to talk, tweet and learn about Twitter, right here in Vancouver.
I sometimes wonder if Clark County has too many cooks trying to fix its economic broth. Now two master chefs are about to leave the kitchen. Those departures — Bart Phillips is resigning from the Columbia River Economic Development Council and Ginger Metcalf will retire from Identity Clark County — will create immediate challenges for the organizations that they head.
Work all day, and whaddaya get? Another day older and deeper in debt. Tweak the 1940s tune about a coal miner’s life, and you’ve got a song that sounds familiar to today’s college students. Three out of five graduates of Washington universities take out loans to pay for school, borrowing an average of $19,780, according to the Project on Student Debt.
By all means, ladies, do what it takes to get ahead — but are you sure you really want to do away with persistent wage gaps? According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, “full-time working women in Washington are paid $12,784 less than their male counterparts, and the gap costs Washington families a total of more than $11 billion annually.” The advocacy group implies that the Paycheck Fairness Act would fix this gap. I don’t buy it.
Radio station AM 1550 broadcasts a conservative talk message that is sure to polarize listeners and send some scuttling to the other end of the dial. But there’s a subtext we all should tune in to: Clark County is an economic force to be reckoned with, and it’s time we recognize that fact. The station, which had been broadcasting old-time crooners, on April 4 switched formats to become “AM 1550, Vancouver’s Talk Station.”
Fearless improvisers, frustrated young tech workers and local do-gooders — all are fodder for Kathy Condon’s imagination, and for her blog. Condon, a former Columbian columnist, shares career-oriented lessons drawn from observations of Clark County life at Communication Pro, which we’re now hosting and featuring on The Columbian’s website at http://columbian.com/weblogs/communication-pro.
It’s heart-wrenching to watch the loss of life and the upending of communities that a massive disaster can bring. Japan’s recent 9.0 earthquake, and its subsequent tsunami and nuclear crisis, have all hit especially close to home in the Pacific Northwest. We share business and cultural ties with Japan. More ominously, we are also bound by the seismically active Ring of Fire. Japan’s earthquake is a reminder that giant temblors have happened here, and they likely will again — possibly tomorrow, possibly not for centuries.
Earmarks bring millions of dollars into Clark County, pay local wages, fund research and development of defense projects and support crucial local infrastructure. As I wrote last week, they deserve more credit than they get. But are they fair? Are they good way to pass a budget? The way they’ve been handled, it’s easy to see why they’ve gotten such a bad name.
They’re “pork” when they go somewhere else, vital when the money’s coming here, suspect to advocates of open government, and forbidden — at least temporarily — from Capitol Hill. Earmarks. With D.C. politicians deep into budget-cutting talks, I thought this would be a good moment to look at earmarks in Clark County.
With big piggy banks to back their lobbying, unions are powerful players in Olympia and Washington, D.C. But as manufacturing has become an ever-smaller part of our economy, I’ve assumed that unions’ influence in ordinary people’s lives has diminished. It turns out that I was wrong, at least in Washington state.
The program that protects Washington workers if they’re hurt on the job is insolvent. Its promised payouts and other expenses add up to more than the sum of all of its assets, according to an audit of the state’s workers’ compensation program. In November, voters defeated an initiative to allow private businesses to compete with the state program. I’m not interested in revisiting that battle. This is the system we have, and the voters have made it clear that it’s staying this way.
More than a decade after he left the presidency, some of Bill Clinton’s more famous quotes still have resonance today. “It’s the economy, stupid,” for example. Clinton used that quip in his successful 1992 campaign against George H.W. Bush to highlight a fundamental truth of American politics. When our economy’s a mess, foreign policy and all other issues take second fiddle.
Would you go to a doctor who didn’t have a medical license? Even if he or she had gotten straight A’s in med school, I’d be nervous about trusting my health to a person who didn’t have the state’s stamp of approval. Yet across Clark County, people whose work could affect your health or your pocketbook are operating without the licenses. In some cases, the state is fighting to shut them down. In others, officials just look the other way.