Corvallis Business: Lumina Hospice Director Change, Downtown Live-Work Project Dies, First Generation Farmer Funding, Oregon Beverage Exports, Chamber Event Upcoming 

Before we start this week’s column, please take note of another story we’re running today, Tough Times for Oregon Brewers. It’s worth a read, and a think too. 

A new leader: Lumina Hospice, previously Benton Hospice Service, has appointed a new executive Director, Amy Baird. Having served as social services manager for two years, Baird had been overseeing caregiver and volunteer programs, as well as the organization’s Transitions program.  

Board Chair Tamara Scoville said, “Lumina has experienced tremendous growth under Amy’s leadership as Interim Executive Director over the past six months. Her passion to continue Lumina’s mission of providing compassionate care and support to individuals facing end of life is integral as we move into the future. The Board of Directors couldn’t be more pleased in our selection of a new Executive Director for Lumina Hospice and Palliative Care.” 

Baird started at Lumina in 2019, and she has 20 years of social work experience. Lumina is an independent nonprofit, which was founded as Benton Hospice Service in 1980. 

Live-Work Vision No More: The old vacant downtown Second Street building sandwiched between the History Museum and Riverside Window & Door was slated for conversion to new live-work spaces – but, no more. Instead, developer Gary Feuerstein has sold the building to Corvallis River Run LLC, who operates the Marriott behind the property, and they have in turn filed with the City, seeking to raze the building. 

If the City eventually grants the permit – there’s currently some back-and-forth – the property would become 12 new Marriott parking spaces. The hotel currently has 136 spaces. Feuerstein sold the property after the City adopted new codes disallowing first floor residential development in downtown.  

Programs For New Oregon Farmers: Oregon State University and Rogue Farm Corps have received $1.5 in USDA funding to educate younger folks about farming. There’s been longstanding worry that retirees are outnumbering new entrants. 

Rogue’s half of the grant will help leverage access to land for new farmers. For instance, connecting first generation farmers with retirees that may not have family taking over, and then helping, and buying development rights to help with the transition. The goal is to help 188 new farmers over the next year.  

So far, the participants have all been in the Willamette Valley, but the program could be replicated in other parts of the state. 

OSU’s half will go to educational programs for military veterans and other newcomers to the field, which includes three onsite teaching farms.  

Exporting Oregon Beverages Difficult, Worthwhile: A new Oregon State University study that examined exporting practices of Oregon’s food and beverage companies found that the likelihood of exporting increases with firm size and length of time in business and that the COVID-19 pandemic reduced the ability of firms to export. 

The study, which analyzed survey data obtained from 95 food and beverage businesses in fall 2020, also found that even among successful exporters, exports account for less than 25% of total shipments and that the cost of establishing a relationship with a foreign partner is a major impediment to exporting. 

“What we really found is, it’s just hard to export,” said Jeff Reimer, a professor of applied economics at Oregon State. “Languages are different, the right distributor is needed. 

“I think the theme here is small and medium firms are important for our local economies. They are making high-quality products that are sought after overseas, but what can our policymakers and business leaders do to help them export those products? 

The study, recently published in the Journal of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, builds on previous research that shows exporting is correlated with faster growth and increased innovation and that exporters increase employment more rapidly than non-exporters and may pay better as well. 

But not much research has focused on exporting within the food and beverage industry, Reimer said. The new study aims to address that gap. For the study, which Reimer co-authored with Christian Langpap, also an economist at Oregon State, surveys were sent to about 400 food and beverage businesses registered in Oregon. 

The researchers received 95 useable responses, most of which fell into five categories: beverage (47%), fruit and vegetable (16%), meat (4%), seafood (4%) and dairy (4%). Of those, 32% had sales in the $1 million to $5 million range and 53% had sales above $5 million. Thirty percent reported that they already export their product. 

Findings included: 

  • Businesses set up as limited liability corporations are more likely to export compared to those set up as cooperatives or sole proprietorships. 
  • Thirty-six percent of exporters had more than 20 employees, while another 25% had between 11 and 15 employees. Of these employees, an average of 1.6 per business were tasked with working on export sales.   
  • Of the exporting businesses, 53.6% said COVID-19 led to a decrease in exports, 35.7% indicated exports remained the same and 10.7% said they increased. 
  • Fifty percent of exporters said it was “very difficult” or “moderately difficult” to start exporting. Twenty-one percent said it was “slightly difficult” and 21% said it was “not at all difficult.” 
  • The top reasons making it hard to export include finding and vetting the right distributor, finding the right international market(s) for the product(s), and regulations and paperwork.   

The authors also note that survey respondents said that state and federal assistance programs were especially helpful, particularly among smaller firms, and that a resource as simple as a list of potential trading partners was cited as potentially very helpful to budding exporters. 

“Oregon’s food and beverage industry is really dynamic, entrepreneurial and quite successful in many ways,” Reimer said. “It brings in a lot of energy, a lot of investment, a lot of talent. People from other parts of the country and around the world move to Oregon to be part of our food and beverage industry. So, it is successful, but how can we do better? We have these great products, these great brands, these innovative talents, how can we introduce the rest of the world to this? 

The study was supported financially by the Oregon Department of Agriculture, Oregon State University, Oregon Potato Commission, Oregon Blueberry Commission, Oregon Beef Council and Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council. 

Online Chamber Member Event, 5 pm, Wednesday: Are you maximizing your Chamber of Commerce membership? Each Chamber member gets a complimentary web page, which brings you up higher in internet searches. In turn  this can help you capture referrals. Find out all you need to know, it only takes 30 minutes. For further information, click here. 

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