It has been a long work weekend prepping for our annual Economic Summit event that will be taking place virtually this Tuesday, October 27th but I wanted to take a minute to send you a note on what we have been working on for the past few weeks at the chamber.
Quickly…the sprint to the holidays and Q4 hustle is upon us and our team has been working hard on several priorities, but here are three I will share with you today (see below for more information on these topics):
A bit more on these three things…
While business have been busy navigating a global pandemic and complying with new regulations, Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been working on updates to administrative rules that may significantly impact businesses across our state. These rule changes are technical, so bear with me.
Under current law for an employer to be liable for a serious violation, OR-OSHA must prove that the employer knew or could have known of the violation. It is a fault-based system. However, in its most recent rules proposal for employer responsibility, OR-OSHA proposes defining “reasonable diligence” to change Oregon’s fault-based system to a strict liability system which could make it easier for OR-OSHA to win a contested case. Additionally, through a separate rulemaking on penalties, the agency is seeking to grant OR-OSHA’s Administrator unfettered discretion to impose maximum penalties on businesses up to $135,382.
The three main issues we have found with these rule changes:
Without strong opposition or feedback, OR-OSHA could adopt these rule changes at the end of October. Oregon’s businesses are already under immense pressure from OR-OSHA and are struggling to stay afloat during COVID-19. We are working to encourage businesses to weigh in on these two rule changes.
Consider weighing on these rules by Friday, October 30th:
To Comment: Department of Consumer and Business Services/Oregon OSHA
350 Winter Street NE
Salem OR 97301-3882 E-mail – email@example.com
Fax – 503-947-7461
Comment period closes: October 30, 2020
Our annual Economic Summit will take place this Tuesday, October 27th and we would love to have you in attendance. We will hear from our keynote speaker, Rebecca Ryan, who is a futurist and an economist and has done work with communities across the country on how to prepare for future economic changes. Next we will hear from Henry Fields, a state workforce analyst about the economic impacts of COVID-19 on Lane County.
In addition to those two economist presentations we will have 5 “lightning talks” on key industry and economic activities in technology, food and beverage, wood products, bio-science, and entrepreneurism and innovation. We will then hear from a panel of small business owners about the challenges and opportunities they are facing.
Next attendees will have an opportunity to choose from 4 breakout sessions on healthcare & COVID-19, homelessness in Lane County, our housing crisis, and the economic impacts of diversity, equity and inclusion work in our community.
Last we will launch our new RISE Executive Leadership Institute and hear closing remarks from Eugene City Manager, Sarah Medary on how we can move our economy forward.
I hope you will join us!
While we have seen the permanent closure of tens of thousands of small and large businesses across the country due to the impacts of COVID-19, a glimmer of hope can be found in startup activity across the country as well. Since the crisis began, Americans are starting new businesses at the fastest rate in more than a decade, taking advantage of pent-up demand and new opportunities created by the crisis. We want to do our part to help these startup businesses succeed.
Under the leadership of Managing Director, Matt Sayre, Onward Eugene started EUG Launchpad this fall. It is a 12-week virtual program that helps entrepreneurs by providing them with a step-by-step method to develop their business model and their product ideas. The program is supplemented with interviews of successful local founders who discuss their startup journey and lessons learned, as well with guest instructors with expertise in financial modeling; business structure, contract and intellectual property law; raising capital; and pitching to investors. The Fall 2020 cohort is comprised of nine startup companies in a variety of traded sector industries, led by facilitator and entrepreneur, Jeremy Green.
Thank you for following along on a heavy update. I appreciate your engagement and hope you have a great week!
Checking-in with you all tonight with my second “Quick Note”: a brief, informal update on the work of the chamber over the past few weeks.
Quickly…Our team is constantly juggling many issues and priorities, but my focus for the past two weeks has centered around three main topics:
I’ll share a bit more on those things...
I was glad to see our Lane County Commissioners, with the leadership of our County Administrator Steve Mokrohisky, have a productive and reasonable conversation this week about how our community should approach the increase in COVID cases in our county. When faced with the option of requesting from the Governor’s office that Lane County go back to “Phase One” they opted not to take that step, but to take a more nuanced, data driven approach.
We have been advocating that this be the approach as the data is showing our case increase is primarily coming from social gatherings (of all ages) not from restaurants and retail establishments which were hit hard by the phased regulations this Spring. Unfortunately, that does not mean we are out of the woods as the Governor’s office can add our county to the statewide watch list and mandate that we return to phase one if our cases continue to increase. We are working at the state level to advocate for a nuanced approach as well. If we are forced to scale back business operations and community activities, those regulations need to be driven by the data and information we now know about the virus- which is much more robust than what we knew this past Spring. The moral of the story is, if we want to keep people safe and businesses open, we need to take this seriously, scale back social gatherings and not let this virus get out of hand in our county.
Yesterday in my regular check-in with Sarah Medary, the Eugene City Manager, we had a good discussion about our regional economic development strategy and the importance of a tactical plan to not only help us recover from the economic impacts of COVID but to proactively put our community on a path to improve our business climate and individual prosperity. While Sarah is still relatively new in her position in an official capacity, she is not new to this community and I can confidently say that I believe she gets it. Strong businesses and good paying jobs is the way to build ourselves long-term out of the immediate issues facing our community like homelessness and our housing shortage. Prioritizing economic development is how we “move up stream”, if you will, and I am hopeful that we are making significant strides in our goal to focus the community on this work. We have a lot of work ahead of us but it’s worth it and we’re up for it. More to come on that front soon.
Lastly, in conversations with executives over the past few years I have heard over and over again that one challenge they face in their business is finding the time and budget to train mid-level and executive level employees to be better managers and company leaders. I am excited to announce that at this year’s Economic Summit, among an agenda that will highlight the state of our local economy , we will be rolling out a new “executive leadership program” that will provide affordable, scalable management and leadership training for businesses across our community. We will be using a digital platform with hundreds of leadership training modules that will be paired with facilitated discussions on how to use the tools in real-life situations. Over the past two months we have been piloting the program with 14 local CEO’s and executives and have benefitted greatly from their feedback and input on the program. More to come in the next few weeks, but I am really excited about this program and the possibility it has to improve leadership capacity across our community.
If you haven’t yet, please consider registering for our virtual Economic Summit on October 27th. Our speakers and agenda will be announced next week.
That is plenty for this Friday evening. Enjoy your weekend and, as always, please do not hesitate to reach out if there is anything we can do for you or your business!