Furman wants Portland and Oregon to give Greenbrier reasons to stick around
By Andy Giegerich
Sustainable Business Oregon editor
Gunderson, a subsidiary of Bill Furman's Greenbrier Cos., could easily take its ecoroof, not to mention its production facilities, elsewhere, Furman says.
In discussing why he’s laying off at least 200 workers and moving another 50 out of Portland proper, Greenbrier Cos. CEO Bill Furman insists he’s not seeking retention-related incentives.
Still, Furman’s comments, during a joint Portland Business Journal and Sustainable Business Oregon interview, left open the door to moving more operations out of the state.
Furman’s specifically concerned about a smattering of policy trends:
- He doesn’t think the state is doing enough to defray budget concerns caused by contribution requirements to the state’s Public Employee Retirement System plan.
- He wants more leadership from the city as riverfront businesses prepare to accept clean-up rules on the Willamette River’s Superfund clean-up site.
- He doesn’t believe the region’s business climate is balanced enough to retain mainstay companies like Greenbrier or its Gunderson subsidiary.
“We could easily diminish the impact in Oregon, instead of 800 jobs at Gunderson, we could do 200 and have a reduced headquarters presence,” Furman said. “And there’s nothing about that lease that could prevent us from moving to Chicago as other companies have done such as Evraz (North America Inc., which moved in early 2011) and is actually more convenient for our business.”
Furman also said a state, which he didn’t identify, had offered $125 million in incentives to attract Greenbrier. He rejected the offer because he said he largely remains a fan of the area’s quality of life.
Furman took umbrage at recommendations to reform the PERS program. Oregon’s House Democrats are examining measures that would set new upper-end tax rates for corporations as well as slash deductions and exemptions for those earning more than $125,000 a year.
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