Thursday, August 19, 2010

Alive and Kicking Off

My home is 3,000 miles away in Washington, D.C., but it feels right to be here in the green and rainy climate of Portland, Oregon.

For starters, I'm here to kick off the development of We're on a super-tight schedule -- shooting to go live a day from tomorrow -- and I have a ton to do and nothing but gratitude for the smart and resourceful team of Polaris Branding Solutions and Matrix Digital Media.

"You saved my ass," I told Greg Stine of Polaris yesterday. He knows, and I'll spare you the story, of the months I spent working with another design and development team.

sign in a window in Eugene
"We haven't saved it yet," Greg shot back.

It feels right, also, because Portland is a cool town -- walkable and neighborhoody and filled with great restaurants and art galleries (never mind that I'm in a hotel 15 minutes away, where the only restaurants within walking distance are Hooters and Burger King) -- and because Oregon itself feels in some ways like the womb of the housing market. This is not where housing developments burst from the ground and promptly soared and plummeted in value, but where much of the lumber comes from.

Early yesterday morning, driving from Portland to Springfield to meet with Greg and his team, I was greeted by smoke belching into the sky from several industrial facilities, including one operated by Weyerhaueser. I'm no fan of industrial smoke, but I do support the domestic manufacturing sector, and for years, I learned from Wikipedia, lumber fueled Springfield's economy. "Weyerhaeuser opened its Springfield complex in 1949, and after years of aggressive logging was forced to downsize as old growth lumber became less available. In the 1990s, the Weyerhaeuser sawmill and veneer (plywood) plants closed, and the paper plant was downsized."

Okay, Wikipedia, but something was definitely humming at Weyerhaueser yesterday (perhaps the 'paperless economy' is still a few years off). And with lumberyards and building materials providers of various sorts rounding out much of Springfield's economy, it seems that if this town can keep ticking through the housing downturn that we may finally be inching out of, than anything can.

We who live in relatively healthy markets forget how profoundly the housing market ripples through the entire economy. We read about foreclosures and financing policy; bankruptcies and layoffs; people who lose their homes because they've lost their jobs or lost all hope of ever regaining the equity they thought they had in their homes. We tend to forget that housing doesn't just mean the people who build and remodel and write mortgages on homes, but also those who work at the factories that produce windows and siding; who work in the schools financed by property taxes; who depend on those schools to prepare them for their own eventual careers.

At the hotel last night, a young guy in the bar told me that he lives in Idaho and works for a company that services big-rig trucks -- typically, 18-wheelers that haul logs from the forest to the mills. How long can those engines last? I asked him. "Some go a million miles. We've got one customer whose truck has a million and a quarter," he said. "What's happened at all those mills since the housing market went south?" I asked him. "A bunch closed," he said. "A ton of trucks went idle, too."

He himself -- a guy who doesn't build houses, doesn't produce building materials, doesn't drive lumber trucks, but helps keep those trucks operating safely -- didn't have work for six months, he told me. "We're getting busy again, though," he said.

I hope he stays busy, even if those trucks go from carrying lumber for new homes to carrying materials that will give old homes new life. I hope Springfield successfully carves out many strategies toward a bright future. I hope you'll enjoy daily5Remodel, and that it will help you adapt and refine your business -- it will help you innovate -- for as long as you hope to make an honest living in the housing market.

Stay tuned.

Leah Thayer

1 comment:

Paul Lesieur said...

We are an industry, that's carpenters, architects, loggers and bloggers whatever.
Don't lose sight of that, it never was or will be different professions, it has always been all of us.
Paul L