Corvallis Business: City Treasury Report, Local Event Upticks, Food Trail Outreach, New Contractor Laws, Young Pros Meet

The City of Corvallis June Treasury Report was released. Highlights include that our liquid investments are still outnumbered by CORE or Component investments for a longer term investment security. Expected inflow for July is set at just over $2 million. Regular Advocate readers know there have been some noteworthy expenditures that might throw the budget off its usual course, so stay tuned.   

Mid-Willamette Valley Food Trail: Corvallis and Albany visitor centers worked together to visit the Media Center for Oregon22 where they shared locally made foods and spirits with a worldwide audience. Corvallis offerings came from Four Spirits, Block 15, and 2 Towns. The hope is that on their way back up the state toward PDX, departing visitors will stop and purchase more of what they liked.  

Corvallis Event Page Uptick: The last two years had created a definite lull in local events, so Christina Rehklau was happy to see things changing. Starting again in May of this year, Visit Corvallis has been seeing an uptick in people checking out the events page on their website. We at The Advocate brought back our events calendar weeks ago, and we’re happy to report seeing similar trends. Things are feeling a bit more normal around here. 

Did County Move Unintentionally Hurt Business: One downtown partner of Visit Corvallis has some concerns regarding the long-term negative effects from the county offices being moved to Research Way. “It’s much easier to run out and do two errands because you’re running over two or three blocks versus getting into your car,” Rehklau said. “Corvallis is very compact, and I can respect that it’s only 10 or 15 minutes,” yet even with the short distance between where the Visit Corvallis office were moved from the Chamber Building and into the heart of downtown, Rehklau and her co-workers tend to patronize different shops which are within walking distance.  

We’ll be looking deeper into this issue in the coming weeks, so if your business has been negatively impacted by the county move, please let us know at editor@corvallisadvocate.com  

City Council: The latest City Council meeting revealed that the city will be starting demolition to build the new Crisis Center within the next 30 days. The center will be built on Van Buren Ave. between 4th and 5th Streets.   

Also at the meeting, Julie Arena of the Home Opportunity Planning and Equity (HOPE) Advisory Board reported that the board will be ready to offer new advice now that the worst of the pandemic seems to be behind us. The board was assembled to create an intermediary between businesses who wanted to talk to the government in a productive way about houseless issues impacting their shops and the governmental people in charge with ultimately making the decisions about what to do. As action items begin to come out of HOPE, whether or not the city accepts the advice depends on all of us.  

Find out who your City Councilor and County Commissioners are, and talk to them about what you’d like to see done with the HOPE advice – generally email is a great place to start. Remember that every two years, the councilors need your vote to remain in office, and that this is an election year for them. Make sure they know what you think about the issues you see in Corvallis and Benton County.  

To help you know who to talk to, remember that while the City Councilors are in charge of the HOPE Advisory Board and have a social services fund, it’s Benton County which is responsible for mental health services, the crisis center and Justice System Initiative, and all social services allocations.  

Vegetation Obstruction Patrol: When rain comes, things grow, and especially so when the sun finally comes out. And sometimes these things grow in a way that blocks views. Recently, in the parking lot for AMC, Home Depot, and Safeway, the shrubs were so overgrown you had to pull into traffic to see if someone was coming. A Corvallisite took the initiative and contacted the city, and the issue has been resolved.  

If you have customers trying to make daring escapes and need to get a hand from the city, go to the Vegetation Obstruction page on the city website. They have an easy form to fill out which you’ll find here. And make sure to check the box to be contacted for a follow-up – it’s always good to take things full circle that way.  

Business Opportunity: Calling out to any mobile food trucks. Janna Bassett, the Contract Clerk at Power Auto Center, has been looking for a food truck to come out to the dealership once a week. If you’re interested, you can reach Bassett at 541-757-1415 for more details. 

Short Lesson on Independent Contractors: In 2013, the Oregon Appeals Court determined that a construction subcontractor was not an employee of the general contractor in the case of Cejas Commercial Interiors Inc. v. Torres-Lizama. This was an important case for Oregon businesses, because it set a precedent for which economic test should be used to decide if someone is an employee or an independent contractor – the “economic realities” test or the “right to control” test. In Cejas, the answer was “economic realities.”  

How do these tests differ? “Economic realities” is a strict, seven-question affair that places most of the onus on the employer to keep things in line. “Right to control” requires a look at 20 questions which rely on the employer and contractor to be in agreement on multiple levels. 

Today, the standard for determining if a worker is or is not an employee comes down to the “ABC” test: 

  1. The worker is free from the employer’s control or direction in performing the work. 
  2. The work takes place outside the usual course of the business of the company and off the site of the business. 
  3. Customarily, the worker is engaged in an independent trade, occupation, profession, or business. 

In 2019, Oregon HB 2498 was introduced to improve the definition of this “contractor” status by taking in parts of the Dynamex decision from California. In that case, delivery drivers claimed they were not independent contractors but rather employees. In light of the Dynamex ruling – which unanimously held that the drivers were employees, Oregon lawmakers were looking for a means of pinning down the questions asked to make this type of issue better understood by adding one more question to the tests: Is the worker’s service outside the usual course of business? If the answer is ‘NO’ then the individual would no longer be considered an independent contractor and will be reclassified as an “employee.”  

Now, this bill be reintroduced. If HB 2498 goes forward, any independent contractor who is asked to work during regular business hours may technically be considered an employee and would therefore be eligible for the same benefits as other employees. The bill was tabled in 2019, but it’s something business owners will want to keep an eye out for.  

Chamber Events: Coming this week from the Chamber of Commerce…  

On July 26, the Corvallis Young Pros and the Corvallis Knights will team up to invite folks to Casey Corner for fun, networking, and baseball. Bring your friends to this free event. Tickets can be found at Goss Stadium. More details here  

By Sally K Lehman 

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