Friday, June 13, 2014

Participation is Needed to Help Protect Your Business

Oregon restaurant owners visit Rep. Greg Walden in D.C.
The past three months proved to be some of the most informative and rewarding times of my life. Despite the warnings of my friends, neighbors and fellow association managers, I ran for the position of City Councilman in Ward 4 in my home town of Salem. This position is a non-paid, part-time job with a four year term serving approximately 20,000 residents of the ward located in far south Salem. The election was decided last week in the primary election and I’m proud to say I won by just less than seven percent. As has been often said, watch what you’ve asked for and that is certainly appropriate now that I’ll be taking office in January 2015.

During the campaign I did on a small scale what I’ve watched state legislative candidates do for the past 31 years. I raised money, walked and knocked on doors introducing myself, participated in phone bank calling, appeared at six or seven public forums with my opponent, put up signs, appeared before a variety of groups seeking their endorsement, and got to meet many people living in the neighborhoods near me in south Salem. The rewarding part is that all the work resulted in a win making it worthwhile and productive personally and for everyone involved in the campaign.

The informative piece had to do with several things. I was saddened by the number of citizens who aren’t even registered to vote – roughly 50 percent of the ward. It bothers and intrigues me that people feel that it isn’t worth their time to even deal with elections, politics and issues. They’ve given up on the system and don’t care to participate. I also learned that most people are really very nice. I personally knocked on over 3,000 doors and only experienced four really rude receptions. Not a bad percentage there.

Even more troubling to me was the fact that only 40 percent of the registered voters in Ward 4 bothered to vote in the primary election, and that was high by far in Salem. Citywide, only 30 percent of the people voted. That means that 20 percent of the potential Ward 4 voters decided this election and we were a high water mark. In two of the other wards it was 10 percent of the voters making decisions! 80 percent of the people didn’t have enough belief in the system to participate. And with vote-by-mail it is even easier to do so in Oregon than most states. That lack of participation is a real problem for our society and one that needs to be solved if the state and nation is going to continue to move forward.

ORLA deals with the same types of participation levels when you look at our membership penetration rates. We currently have 30 pecent of the hospitality industry supporting our efforts, which benefit the entire industry. Part of ORLA’s mission is to represent the business interests in the political and public worlds of the hospitality industry in Oregon. Just like Ward 4, we have industry members with varying business and political philosophies when it comes to developing a position on issues that directly impact our industry. These issues include paid sick leave, the Affordable Care Act, lodging taxes and minimum wage increases. Right now the active 30 percent are deciding the industry’s position. ORLA needs the majority of the industry involved and supportive to truly be effective for the industry. Participating and supporting the efforts of the team of professionals representing you is a small investment in the well-being of your business. I invite you to be a part of the process and join ORLA to ensure your voice is heard and your business is protected. | Steve McCoid, President & CEO, ORLA

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Investing in our Future Workforce

It's time to report on the progress towards establishing a four-year Hospitality Management degree at the OSU-Cascades campus in Bend. The program’s leader, Todd Montgomery, recently gave a presentation to program stakeholders, of which ORLA’s a major stakeholder in the reestablishment of this program having led the fundraising to enable the university to hire Todd.

Oregon lost its hospitality management program in the early 90s when Oregon State University closed its program due to low participation and a budget-cutting program dictated by recessionary times. The result was a steady exodus of college students to programs elsewhere in the country - especially to WSU and Nevada Las Vegas’ programs here in the West. Much too often these students found jobs in other states and didn’t return home. This brain drain certainly was a detriment to our industry and was frequently bemoaned by industry members as I interacted with them.

Dr. Becky Johnson who heads up the OSU-Cascades campus came to visit me several years ago with a request for assistance in getting the Hospitality Management degree reinstituted. Funds were needed to pay for the hiring of a second, and lead, professor to enable the university to offer all the classes required for the major. Funding for a three-year period at $100,000 annually was necessary to allow the program to be designed, approved and implemented. The business plan calls for the tuition paid by the students enrolled in the major to eventually fund the professor’s salary after the three-year period is up.

I agreed to call industry leaders around the state with the assistance of Julie Hotchkiss, OSU-Cascades Director of Development, to see if there was interest to fund this effort. The test was to call on ten potential funders and ascertain their interest and support; the request was for $5,000 per year for three years. We made our calls, and to our delight received a positive answer from eight of the first ten calls. Julie and I proceeded to raise over $300,000 in the next year with the first pledges paid in early 2013.

I’m happy to report that this stage is nearing completion and classes should begin in the fall of 2014. The degree will be housed in OSU’s School of Business and the students completing the course will receive a Hospitality Management degree with a minor in Business.

We’re very excited about the reestablishment of this degree in Oregon. Bend is a wonderful location as it provides a vibrant hospitality industry that will allow for the inclusion of internship requirements for the degree. The resorts, attractions, restaurants, lodging facilities, breweries and outdoor offerings will provide a rich and varied internship experience for the students pursuing this degree. The result will be students entering the workforce with a degree that directly applies to the hospitality industry from an Oregon-based university, thus providing the industry with an annual supply of well-trained management applicants to hire.

ORLA is proud to have played a role in the development of what we think will be a major asset for the industry for years to come. The real thanks goes to the following industry partners who stepped up to fund the development of this program when asked: ORLA Education Foundation, Elmer’s, Shari’s, Bon Appetit Management Co., Bargreen Ellingson, Liberty Mutual Insurance, The Dussin Group (Old Spaghetti Factory), Food Services of America, Jubitz Foundation, Bennington Properties, Black Butte Ranch, Tom & Stacy Luerson, Navis Inc., the Oxford Hotel Group and Baney Family, and Sunriver Resort

Thank these good folks when you see them as they’ve done a really wonderful thing for our industry. | Steve McCoid, President & CEO, ORLA

Friday, March 7, 2014

Minimum Wage Debate Directs Focus Away from Job Creation and Growth

The Oregonian recently published an editorial on minimum wage summing up with, “So maybe it would be good if the minimum wage debate brings more attention to Oregon. What policy-makers would see is if they want to make real progress on reducing poverty, restoring the middle class and energizing the economy, the minimum wage is little more than a political diversion.”

While there is a lot of rhetoric on both sides of the minimum wage debate, raising the minimum wage actually gives little buying power. It creates a reduction in hours among lower skilled workers, and the products and services they use increase in cost. And, Oregon remains above the national average in unemployment.

The Oregonian editorial also stated, “It’s equally hard to argue that the minimum wage has made much of a dent in poverty. And it clearly hasn’t done much to boost the state’s per capita or median household incomes, both of which lag the nation.”

The insight of The Oregonian that “the minimum wage is little more than a political diversion” is a longstanding tactic of the unions. Before the 1996 minimum wage increase was on the ballot, the Oregon AFL-CIO put out a request for proposal on August 7, 1995 and the reason for the RFP stated, “In order to combat this hostile electoral and legislative climate, our campaign will … force our opponents to expend significant resources fighting labor-backed initiatives that will benefit working people.”

We have clearly seen that the government employees benefit packages have been costing the State billions of dollars – that’s billions with a B – in unfunded liabilities, so the unions indeed need a diversion.

If the backers of higher minimum wages wanted to direct help to people living solely on minimum wage, they would address it through the legislative process and try to reach meaningful compromise. There are provisions in the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, and in 40-some states that would help businesses manage their hours as it relates to tipped employees and minors entering the work force.

Most people listed as minimum wage workers in Oregon are either tipped employees making and reporting over $20 an hour in combined income, or minors who live with their parents and are gaining much-needed work experience. In Oregon we have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, and the unemployment rate for minors is even higher.

But the unions’ outrageous benefit packages and threats of strikes are creating problems in schools and local economies, and the public is becoming frustrated with the escalating costs. So when the unions need a political diversion, minimum wage is their old go-to topic.

It creates management concerns with payroll, employee hours and price increases, but the public stops talking about the real issues. Organized labor has not been able to deal with private sector issues, so union growth has primarily been in the government sector. Unions and policymakers that spend time on minimum wage are continuing down a path of lost focus and lost hours.

If the unions concentrated on matters that grew the economy, all citizens would benefit. Minimum wage workers do not join unions; they are primarily young, inexperienced individuals just entering the workforce. Income growth will come from manufacturing jobs and higher-skilled workers, and those people are the ones that join unions. We all need to focus on job creation and income growth, and not merely the same old “political diversion.” | Bill Perry, VP of Government Affairs, ORLA

Monday, February 17, 2014

Renewed National Partnership

ORLA is once again a partner with the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) effective with the start of the New Year. The board and staff are enthusiastic with the changes being made in AH&LA’s mission, staff and approach to representing the industry. The AH&LA Board heard the concerns from many state associations regarding the collection and payment of dues at the state level and acted upon them in a very proactive manner that is to their credit. They all bode well for a stronger, more effective and focused national trade association to represent your interests.

ORLA had ended its partner state agreement with AH&LA two years ago after a great deal of review and discussion. At that time, the agreement created issues and limited membership sales for your association. Oregon was not the only state to raise these concerns. At the time we ended our partner state agreement, nearly one third of the state associations weren’t working with their national association. Clearly something had to be done.

AH&LA’s leadership recognized the need for change to ensure the association’s continued relevance in Washington DC and across the nation and to position the association for long-term success and survival. The board commissioned an industry-wide survey of the 575 key stakeholders in the industry to discover what the membership, state associations, members and staff of AH&LA wanted their national association to provide the industry in way of programs and services. They took those findings, developed committees consisting of all the stakeholders mentioned above, and started the planning process. New funding strategies and by-laws were the result as well as a more focused mission statement and strategic plan. Advocacy and communications to members and the public were the main focus. State associations will no longer be required to collect and forward dues to AH&LA unless they choose to do so with payment for their efforts and the national dues were lowered. State associations will now pay dues at a much lower level to be a partner state with AH&LA.

Since the AH&LA membership approved all of these changes a great deal has happened. Katherine Lugar was hired as the President & CEO and charged with implementing the many changes the new plan called for, which she has done at a thorough and rapid pace. The Government Affairs team has been turned over, the quality and amount of communications coming from the national office is greatly improved and the budget is much higher with the new funding program. In short, Katherine and her staff have done a terrific job of implementing a very demanding plan that has restructured and positioned AH&LA for the future.

What this means for ORLA members is better representation in DC, improved information on national issues being available to you, and lower dues to be an ORLA member (by 40 percent). By the way, we opted to continue to sell AH&LA memberships to the independent lodging operators who choose to be AH&LA members at the rate of $2 per room. It isn’t required to join ORLA but certainly is an option that we strongly urge you to consider and support.

The board and staff of ORLA are very excited about the new AH&LA and what it means for the industry. It is refreshing to work with an organization who listened to the concerns of the states and other stakeholders, found out what they wanted and then developed a plan to deliver that in a very timely manner. We’re proud to be a partner with that team and look forward to working with them to provide you with seamless coverage of your needs at the state and national levels. | Steve McCoid, president & CEO, ORLA

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Your Association’s New Year’s Resolutions

Oregon's capitol
Happy New Year! Now that we’ve survived the holiday season of 60+ football bowl games, putting up and taking down the Christmas decorations, and attempting to watch what we eat and drink (for me unsuccessfully as usual) it is time for making New Year’s resolutions. I’m a believer in making these and every once in awhile a resolution has actually been made and followed by yours truly.

For instance, my 1986 resolution was to quit smoking and January 1, 2014 marks 28 years of non-smoking – a good thing. I must confess that there are the annual resolutions of losing weight (and keeping it off) and eating healthier that are not religiously kept. However, I’m making them again in 2014 as only a stubborn Irishman can do. One has to set goals to succeed, right?

With that thought in mind, I’m going to share ORLA’s New Year’s resolutions for 2014 with you. These are the best kind of resolutions because they are made by someone else (ORLA’s staff) so you aren’t faced with meeting them yourselves but you will be the beneficiary if ORLA’s staff keeps them. Doing so will benefit the industry and your business. So, with this win/win proposition in mind, here are your association’s 2014 resolutions:

•    ORLA resolves to continue to operate the preeminent government affairs program in Oregon for the benefit of the industry and ORLA’s members. This includes an on-going role as one of the general business lobby’s leaders in Salem.

•    ORLA resolves to be the information source for the industry whenever an issue, question or problem needs to be addressed and/or answered with current and specific information.

•    ORLA resolves to continue to be a leader in the promotion of the industry, and all the wonderful benefits it provides our state, to Oregon’s public and private interests and the state’s print and electronic media.

•    ORLA resolves to continue to be the leader in providing mandated training to the industry. Constantly updating and improving our pioneering online training products is a must to keep our members’ employees properly trained and informed.

•    ORLA resolves to continue to fund and operate one of Oregon’s largest business political action committees to support the campaigns of pro-industry candidates to the Oregon House of Representatives and Senate. Doing so will ensure that the hospitality industry’s stature and voice are recognized and heard in Oregon’s political arena.

•    ORLA resolves to continually ask our members and the hospitality industry what they want their association to do for them, and to act on those requests in an expeditious manner.

•    Finally, and most importantly, ORLA resolves to never forget that we exist to represent, advocate for, inform and educate our members and industry. This is our mission and one we take very seriously.

As you can see, we have a great deal to do in the coming year. All of our resolutions are based on what our members have told us they want their association to do for them. You have a staff of association professionals dedicated to making your industry a better, more profitable one to work in. We welcome you to join us in representing our great industry.

In fact, I would suggest that you make a resolution to join ORLA, if you aren't a member already, in 2014 and become part of the only trade association in Oregon that represents and promotes your business’s welfare. Team up with ORLA’s dedicated staff of professionals this year. Doing so will be one of the best, and least expensive, business decisions you can make in the coming year.

Steve McCoid
President & CEO, Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association

Thursday, November 15, 2012

New Food Code Rules: Do You Know The Details?

The health inspector visited our restaurant and said we need to have a warning on our menus that we serve raw animal foods. I was unaware of this requirement; where do I find out how to state that information?” – restaurant operator in Hood River, Oregon
By now most restaurants in Oregon are aware of the new FDA Food Code rules that went into effect on September 4, 2012. But based on questions we’ve received over the past several weeks, it appears many don’t know some of the specific changes and are searching for details on how to implement the new rules.

The Oregon Public Health Division Foodborne Illness Prevention Program developed a number of fact sheets on the various rule changes and new sanitation rules that operators can easily download online. For example, the Consumer Advisory fact sheet addresses the requirement to disclose to consumers the risk of eating raw or undercooked foods. The advisory outlines specific language that should be used in the disclosure and reminder statements, as well as gives examples of food types that would require a Consumer Advisory. To download the fact sheets, visit Oregon Health Authority (OHA) online.

As part of a comprehensive educational program for ORLA’s annual Convention this past September, representatives from OHA and Lane County Environmental Health gave a presentation on the new food code rules. Attendees learned how to prepare for inspections, documentation, wellness policies, and how to implement some of the major changes. Visit to download the presentation notes.

And in case you weren’t aware, ORLA’s website has a number of federal and state regulatory agency links conveniently listed on one page that restaurant and lodging operators can reference. Visit ORLA's website for more information, or call us at 503.682.4422.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Evolving ORLA (part 1): The changing demographic of the industry

Demographic information has always fascinated me. Analyzing data about the demographic makeup of an area and how that affects retail sales or elections or local politics is always an eye opener. I’ve maintained my interest in the subject over the years and used it as a tool. I’m glad that I did as the current demographic makeup of our industry tells us that changes are afoot and that ORLA needs to address them to remain relevant.

We’re experiencing a major changing of the guard in the ownership of the businesses that make up the hospitality industry. The dominant generation of our industry for the past 25 years has been the Baby Boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964. At that time they were the largest generation in the history of the nation and as they moved through their lives they affected everything in our society from laws to elections to fashion to business and leisure.

The era of the Baby Boomer is passing. Did you know 10,000 Boomers turn the age of 65 every day? That is one every 7 seconds. Why is that important? Well, 65 is the traditional retirement age. Owners and operators of restaurants and lodging properties who have been leaders in the industry and active in your association are reaching retirement age and leaving the industry. It will continue at this pace for the next ten years. Then we’ll see the majority of owners, operators and leaders in the industry are from the Gen X (born 1965-1980) and the Gen Y or “Millennial” (born 1981-2000) generations. (Read also USA Today's "Hotel CEOs getting younger".)

Why does this matter you might ask? Well, the Baby Boomers are joiners. They have traditionally supported those associations and organizations that they felt supported their business or beliefs. Signing them up for membership was not a tough sell. They believed in the concept and were supportive and active as members. However, the generations that follow them are a bit more discriminating when it comes to joining associations. They have to believe that investing their time and money will benefit them personally or professionally before they will join any organization. So, associations, including ORLA, have to be sure they are providing programs and services these generations value and are willing to support.

This environment represents a real turning point for all associations. The membership that they’ve represented for the past thirty plus years is changing rapidly as the numbers above indicate. If ORLA is to remain viable as a membership option, and as the representative of the hospitality industry, the leadership and staff are going to have to review all activities and programs to ensure they are valued by the emerging owners and operators in the hospitality industry. Those individuals are the future of ORLA and our industry. Your association needs their support and participation to continue to be an effective industry representative. | Steve McCoid, president & CEO

(In Part 2 we look at how we need to adapt, change and accommodate to meet the needs of the new generation. )