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Q&A with OBI Board Chair Lori Olund

In March, Lori Olund became chair of the OBI Board of Directors. We asked Lori this month to talk about her new role, the challenges facing businesses in Oregon, her experience on the board of the National Association of Manufacturers, and much more.

Lori is president of Miles Fiberglass & Composites, a family owned company that manufactures a wide range of products, from panels used in refrigerated rail cars to a prototype submersible car built for a Middle Eastern waterpark.

Go here to read the Q&A.

Go here to read our Q&A without outgoing Chair Jordan Papé.

OBI to Present Sept. 25 Employment Law Summit

Does your business need help understanding the complexities of state and federal employment law? You’re in luck. On Sept. 25, OBI will host a full-day Employment Law Summit in Wilsonville. Legal experts will cover a variety of employment topics, including:

  • Paid Leave Oregon
  • Scheduling, overtime and break laws
  • The latest from the National Labor Relations Board
  • Reasonable accommodations under ADA
  • Navigating noncompete and nondisclosure agreements
  • Case law update

The summit is open to everyone but will be particularly helpful to HR staff and managers of small and medium-sized businesses. Continuing legal education and HR credits pending.

Registration is $175 and includes all materials and lunch.

The summit will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Wilsonville, which is located at 25425 SW 95th Ave.

Go here to register.

OBI Kicks Off Coolest Thing Made in Oregon Contest

OBI, in partnership with Here is Oregon, has kicked of the second annual Coolest Thing Made in Oregon Contest, in which Oregonians will vote for the coolest thing manufactured in the Beaver State. Finalists will be chosen from a list of products nominated by the public to appear in a bracket-style tournament, and four rounds of voting will produce a winner. The winning manufacturer will receive formal recognition and, more importantly, enjoy bragging rights for producing Oregon’s coolest thing.

Follow the link below if you’d like to nominate a product. Manufacturers are encouraged to nominate their own products. Nobody knows how cool a product is more than the people who make it. To be eligible, products must be manufactured substantially in Oregon and legal to buy in all 50 states.

To read more about the Coolest Thing Made in Oregon Contest, including results and updates from last year’s inaugural contest, check out the contest web site here.

The window to nominate products will remain open until July 12. The 16 finalists will be announced in September, and the winner will be announced at OBI’s Vision Oregon Event on Oct. 23.

Go here to nominate a product.

Notable News: Campaigns and Elections

Don’t Forget to Vote: Ballots for the May 21 primary election must be postmarked by election day, and ballots deposited in an official drop box must be received by 8 p.m. on election day.

Swing District Spending: A new political action committee has begun pouring money into a key Oregon swing district just days before the Democratic primary there, raising questions about whether Republicans are trying to tilt the scales in the contest, which features Janelle Bynum and Jamie McLeod-Skinner (The Associated Press).

Note on Election Results: OBI members will receive an edition of Capitol Connect on Wednesday containing notable results from Tuesday’s primary election.

Reprieve for Port of Portland’s Container Operations

The many Oregon businesses that rely upon the Port of Portland’s Terminal 6 to ship products received welcome news last week. Following a commitment by Gov. Kotek to invest $40 million in the facility, the Port of Portland on May 16 reversed a decision to suspend operations at the state’s only container terminal in the fall.

Port officials surprised many businesses and officials in April, when they announced that the terminal’s container-handling operation would end on Oct. 1 because an effort to lease the site to a third-party operator had failed. According to the port, the container business lost $13 million in each of the last two years.

The cessation of the port’s container business would have dealt a serious blow to Oregon businesses. Nearly a quarter of container-based exports from the state go through Terminal 6, OBI and other business groups noted in an April 24 letter urging port officials to exhaust all options before pulling the plug.

In her May 16 letter to the port, the governor promised to ask the Legislature to provide $15 million for dredging and $20 million for capital improvements in the 2025-27 budget. She also said she’d ask the Legislative Emergency Board in September to provide $5 million to stabilize near-term operations.

June 4 Webinar: Paid Leave Oregon Update

In 2023 and 2024, the Oregon Legislature made substantial changes to the Oregon Family Leave Act and Paid Leave Oregon. The changes, supported by OBI, were intended to reduce redundancies between the two leave programs and simplify compliance for employers and employees.

Join attorney Stacie Damazo of Barran Liebman LLP on June 4 to learn about these changes and what they mean for employers. The webinar will run from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., and registration is required. Follow the link below to register.

There will be plenty of time for questions

This webinar was supported by OBI’s CompSAFE program, which helps qualifying businesses save on workers’ compensation insurance through a partnership with SAIF, Oregon’s not for profit provider of workers’ compensation insurance.

Go here to register.

Policy and Rulemaking Updates

Get Ready for OSHA Walkaround Rule

Unless a court intervenes, a new federal OSHA rule will require employers to allow third-party representatives to join onsite OSHA inspections. Oregon has not yet updated its own rule on this issue, but OBI expects it to in the coming months.

The federal rule, which will go into effect May 31, allows anyone an inspector deems a worker representative to join an inspection. Worker representatives can include union representatives (even on open-shop jobsites), community activists and any other party deemed reasonably necessary for conducting the inspection. This new rule could allow non-employees access to jobsites, trade secrets and additional information that could be used for organizing efforts. Employers should review OSHA’s FAQ for the walkaround rule to ensure they know the process an inspection should follow and are able to identify activity by third-party representatives that is unrelated to the inspection.

In anticipation of OSHA inspections, employers can protect themselves by developing procedures to negotiate the scope of inspections and limit the number of third-party representatives. Procedures should require third-party representatives to sign liability waivers to limit tort risk and nondisclosure agreements to protect confidential information viewed during an inspection. Other protective measures employers can take include designating a person to meet the OSHA inspector and anyone they bring; ensuring the inspection is conducted in a manner that does not create unreasonable disruptions; and instructing the inspector to tell the third-party representative that matters unrelated to the inspection should not be discussed with employees.

DEQ Provides Useful Guidance on Recycling Law

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has provided valuable guidance for businesses that will be affected by the 2021 Recycling Modernization Act (RMA), for which rules are now under development. The RMA is scheduled to become effective on July 1, 2025.

In essence, the law imposes new responsibilities on producers related to the use and recycling of plastic materials in Oregon. Many significant challenges remain with the RMA rulemaking process, including emerging details around the scope, cost and complexity of the program for affected businesses, as well as the likely costs, cultural and logistical challenges for consumers.

As rulemaking continues, it’s vitally important for businesses to determine whether the law will deem them responsible producers. DEQ has provided two documents that are helpful in this regard. First, a three-page Summary of Producer Obligations describes the products covered by the program and explains which companies will be deemed responsible producers.

Second, a much longer RMA Decision Tree provides relatively in-depth guidance about products, responsibilities and compliance. The latter document may be the best tool available to help businesses determine whether they will be deemed responsible producers.

DEQ Holds Second Climate Program Meeting

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) held a second advisory committee meeting May 14 to develop rules for the Climate Protection Program (CPP). This is the second rulemaking effort for the program, and DEQ seeks to correct procedural deficiencies the Oregon Court of Appeals described in a December 2023 decision. The court decision invalidated the original program rules.

In the span of a single meeting on May 14, DEQ tackled some of the most important and complex aspects of the rule. These include flexibility for regulated entities, including the allocation of alternative compliance instruments; how the rule should treat manufacturing facilities that are emissions-intensive and trade-exposed; and how the cap on greenhouse gas emissions should be applied. The approach DEQ takes in each of these program areas is likely to have a major impact on both compliance costs for regulated entities and costs for consumers of natural gas and vehicle fuel. OBI is represented on the rulemaking advisory committee and will be submitting written comments after consultation with OBI’s Energy and Environment Steering Committee. The final rulemaking advisory committee meeting will be held June 25, and we expect to see the proposed rule later this summer.

Notable News

Portland Population Loss: Once a magnet for newcomers, Portland lost population for a third straight year, even as large cities in the Northeast and Midwest rebounded from pandemic-era declines, the U.S. Census Bureau said. Portland’s population totaled 630,498 on July 1, 2023, down 0.66% from 634,668 a year earlier. Meanwhile, nearby Hillsboro and Happy Valley grew (Willamette Week).

Oregon Jobs: Oregon has many jobs in the healthcare, manufacturing and childcare industries. But the workforce to fill these jobs is lagging, and employers will have to work together to shore up the state’s worker shortage. Those are some of the key findings from the Oregon Talent Assessment, a biannual report released this month by the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission and the Workforce and Talent Development Board (Oregon Public Broadcasting).

Tech Employment: Employment at tech companies in Oregon and Southwest Washington is down slightly, but still accounts for more than 30,000 jobs in the region. And while a few stalwarts of the local tech landscape still occupy the top spots, the updated annual lists of the largest companies in the region include some changes (Portland Business Journal).

Oregon Employment Department: The beleaguered Oregon Employment Department said May 15 it will attempt to accelerate claims processing by cutting phone hours, giving staff more time to reduce a backlog of unpaid benefits (The Oregonian).

Oregon School Funding: Superintendents in four Oregon school districts, including the two largest in Portland and Salem, are calling on state leaders to boost funding for public education, calling the state of school funding a “crisis.” In a video posted to district YouTube accounts on May 13, the leaders of Portland, Salem-Keizer, Bend-La Pine and Medford school districts made a plea to state leaders to update the formula for calculating per-student funding in Oregon (Oregon Capital Chronicle).

Forestry Board: Gov. Tina Kotek abruptly pulled back this month on a pair of nominations to the board that oversees Oregon forest policy, after blowback from environmental groups over one of her picks. Kotek had planned to tap two men for the state Board of Forestry who have often been on opposite sides of debates over how much of Oregon’s forests should be open to logging (Oregon Public Broadcasting).

Water Boss: After a nearly yearlong, nationwide search for the next boss to lead the agency managing Oregon’s water supply, state officials announced this month that Gov. Tina Kotek has chosen a veteran bureaucrat whose appointment could face political pushback. Ivan Gall has been with the Oregon Water Resources Department for more than 25 years, serving as a hydrogeologist, manager and senior administrator (Oregon Public Broadcasting).

First Lady Emails: Last month, at the request of Oregon first lady Aimee Kotek Wilson, the state’s top behavioral health official met with representatives of one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies (Willamette Week).

Freeway Lawsuit: As plans to widen and cover a section of Interstate 5 through Portland’s Rose Quarter move forward, community groups and anti-highway advocates are once again suing to stymie the long-contentious project (Oregon Public Broadcasting).

I-5 Bridge Tolls: When construction starts on a new Interstate 5 bridge across the Columbia River in early 2026, drivers will begin paying tolls on the existing span between Washington and Oregon (Washington State Standard).

Bend SDC Shock: Big increases in Bend’s system development charges are causing sticker shock (Cascade Business News).

Hospital Staffing: Oregon hospital systems are scrambling to comply with one of the nation’s toughest hospital staffing laws, which passed the Legislature last year after a long and, at times, contentious process. June is the deadline for hospitals to staff their units according to the nurse-to-patient ratios outlined in the law (Portland Business Journal).

Daimler Facility: Daimler Truck North America said May 10 it will spend $40 million to build a new electric vehicle engineering facility at its Swan Island headquarters, choosing Portland over two other sites it had considered. The company said it will also build a new $3 million Portland training facility (The Oregonian).

Clean Natural Gas: Small amounts of clean-burning hydrogen are flowing on the NW Natural grid, at least occasionally, produced at a regional station in Inner Southeast Portland in a process that removes carbon from natural gas (Portland Business Journal).

Microchip Furloughs: Microchip Technology said this month that it will shutter its factories for another two weeks at the end of June after another steep decline in quarterly revenue. The Arizona company’s executives and managers will take pay cuts while factory workers will go on unpaid furlough. The shutdown will affect about 900 at Microchip’s semiconductor fab in Gresham (The Oregonian).

Check Out OBI’s Member Benefits

OBI offers members a range of programs that can save money or help small businesses offer benefits normally available only to much larger companies. Benefit programs include:

  • HealthChoice: Helps businesses with fewer than 100 employees offer comprehensive health-care benefits through our partnership with Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon.
  • CompSAFE: Helps eligible companies enjoy workers’ compensation discounts through SAIF Corporation.
  • Fuel Program: Helps members save fuel costs through our partnership with Ed Staub & Sons.
  • ODP Business Solutions: Helps OBI members save money on office furniture, supplies and other services.
  • LegalPLUS: OBI members receive 15 minutes of free legal consulting per month from Innova Legal Advisors.

Go here to learn about all of OBI’s member benefits.