Exodus, Movement of Jah People

by | Feb 20, 2010

There’s an increasingly tiresome argument being made in the corporate suits, government offices and newsrooms of Portland, Oregon. The argument goes like this: Portland doesn’t have enough top tier talent to properly grow a company, nor enough venture capital.

According to Mike Rogoway of The Oregonian, three Portland companies—Jive Software, Ensequence and SurveyMonkey—all moved their top executives out of state last year.

“It’s not about Portland,” says Dave Goldberg, SurveyMonkey’s new California-based chief executive. “It’s really just about the Bay Area.”

“My job is to shepherd this company to be a great company, and if we can’t do it in Portland, we’re going to do it someplace else,” Dave Hersh, Jive Software’s CEO, said last fall. “I’m disappointed we weren’t able to pull it all off in Portland.”

Jive and Ensequence maintain Portland headquarters, and all three companies have retained sizable contingents here. Still, last year’s executive exodus was especially dispiriting in the context of Oregon’s wilted economy.

In related news, Laura Gunderson of The Oregonian reports that Lucy Activewear is moving from Portland to San Leandro, Calif., eliminating as many as 95 corporate and distribution center jobs here. Lucy, it’s important to note, isn’t locally owned.

In addition to the lack of available capital and talent beef, Oregonians also suffer from rumors that we don’t work hard and that our taxes on corporations are too high. I’ll leave the tax argument to others more qualified to speak, but the work ethic gripe I’ll gladly mangle. First, the argument is false. This state and all the great companies, schools and cultural institutions in it weren’t put here by a genie. They were put here by the pioneering, passionate and deeply committed citizens of the Beaver State.

Plus, too many places with a notable work ethic are soulless husks of a city. I don’t want to be part of that. Do you? Work is a central aspect of life in Oregon, as it is elsewhere, but we strive for balance here. The arts are important here; we like to eat amazing food and drink local wine and beer; and we go camping, hiking, skiing, etc.

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