Monday, December 22, 2014

ORLA Keeps You Up to Date on Emerging Issues

Ebola, marijuana, data security. These are all current topics that we’ve seen in the news, deal with in our businesses, and that represent challenges to anyone managing a lodging property. Some of these are new, some are issues you might think you’d never deal with, and some are issues that you’ve dealt with that keep changing due to on-going improvements in technology. In all cases, they are matters that you need to know about and know how to deal with if they arrive at your place of business. Our December issue of Lodging News addresses each of these topics for you.

You’re busy running your business on a daily basis. You don’t have the time to keep up with these and the many other issues that crop up daily and monthly to affect your profitability. That is a major reason ORLA exists. We are here to communicate these types of issues to you through communication vehicles like our two magazines, e-newsletters, special e-bulletins and our website.

ORLA provides you a one-stop, go-to organization that you can utilize to stay up to date on these emerging issues. Oh, and by the way, we also advocate for reasonable, manageable solutions at the state and local levels to the policy makers who react to the onset of these challenges with new laws, ordinances and regulations.

You need to be up to date. You need to be responsive. You need to be aware of new and emerging issues. You need to be able to answer questions raised by your customers. You can attempt to find the answers on your own, or you can support ORLA and have that one-stop place to get your questions answered accurately and in a timely manner. Give us a try. I guarantee you’ll like the results and make your business lives just a little bit easier and less stressful while doing so. | Steve McCoid, ORLA President & CEO

Friday, October 10, 2014

Recognizing Pride and Passion

Lodging Operator of the Year Craig Thompson (center)
ORLA recognized four hospitality professionals at our annual Awards Banquet during the convention last month in Bend. The Lodging Operator of the Year was awarded to Craig Thompson, GM of the Hotel Monaco in Portland. Craig’s long, successful, influential and continuing 44-year career was highlighted. He was recognized not only for running the #2 rated Oregon hotel by TripAdvisor, but for the leadership role he played in a number of other industry organizations, and for the influence he has had through mentoring employees who have moved on to successful management careers. In fact, Craig pointed with pride to the fact that the #1 TripAdvisor rated hotel in Oregon is managed by a former employee and front desk manager that Craig hired and mentored! All of the award winners are listed along with links to their videos on ORLA’s website ( I encourage you to check them out as they are all terrific representatives of what makes the hospitality industry great. You’ll see the passion they have for their jobs and this industry and see that it hasn’t waned during their long careers.

In this issue, you’re going to be treated to a wonderful feature story that highlights the philanthropic programs several lodging companies operate to benefit their communities and the state. They’ve developed these programs to support charities that resonate with their team members. Those team members participate in the fundraising design and implementation throughout the year. Those results translate into contributions to designated charities that benefit those in need in their areas. The result for the business is engaged employees who are introduced to these types of charitable activities; a development of teamwork as all the employees get involved in the planning, fundraising and presentation of their hard work; and a very real, personal and professional feeling of accomplishment and pride by all involved.

The thing that links the award winners and the teams of the businesses highlighted in the article is passion. The award winners succeeded in their careers because they discovered and brought a passion for what they did every day. That passion could be seen on the awards night as they graciously and humbly received their well-deserved recognition. They all spoke about the love for their jobs. They transmitted their passion for what they do in their brief remarks to everyone in the room.
Similarly, the people quoted in the article this month cited the passion that their employees felt for being involved in a philanthropic program. They tell you how it creates a real link among everyone on the team and improves their view and appreciation of their employer. They do it because it is right – not because they want to benefit from it. They do it because the team has become passionate about the programs and taken ownership of it.

Passion is certainly the operative word here, isn’t it? The passion for serving people is what makes a successful hospitality industry professional. Whether is it the front desk person, a server, a concierge or a room service person it is passion for what they do that makes the difference between excellence and ‘just okay’ for them in their job and, ultimately, for you as the employer.

I can tell you with pride that your association is staffed with people who are passionate about serving you and the industry. All you need to do is reach out and ask for assistance, answers or information on an ORLA program. You’ll get what you need quickly and enthusiastically from a professional, trained to serve you and your needs. Remember us when you need assistance or information. We’re here to serve you and are passionate about doing so. | Steve McCoid, ORLA President & CEO

Friday, August 15, 2014

Supporting ORLA Ensures Your Industry’s Vitality

Members networking at Convention
ORLA is a membership organization and, thus, it is important for its long term viability and fiscal health that it maintains a large, growing, supportive membership. Over the years the association has used all types of sales approaches in its efforts to convince industry operators that they needed to part with a small portion of their hard earned dollars to support its activities. At times we leaned on our very successful suite of endorsed services and the savings they provided members the key reason for joining. Certainly, in terms of a return this made sense to the thousands of operators who joined for that reason. However, this approach created a purely financial relationship that didn’t last if a program’s returns didn’t meet a member’s expectations, leading to a constant turnover in members.

That has led to ORLA changing its sales message to one focusing on the mission of the association as the key reason for joining. That mission, one that calls for ORLA to advocate for, communicate to, and educate its members, is one that when used as the reason for joining produces long term, loyal members who understand and support what ORLA is there to do for them. For your association is the only organization in the state existing to provide those services to your business.

We advocate by representing your interests before the state and federal legislatures and local city councils and county commissions on all issues affecting your business. In other words we lobby for you on a daily basis and are recognized as a leading business association in this arena. One of the largest business political action committees in the state is also managed by ORLA to increase your political profile. We also proactively promote all the good the industry and your business does for Oregon to the state’s media. We serve as your spokesperson.

We communicate to you the information you need to have to successfully operate a business. Those communications can be an explanation of a new regulation or statute that applies to you and your business. It can be providing information on a new program, new technology, industry news or best practices in management. We communicate to the industry through two print magazines, a great website, two e-newsletters, as-needed government affairs e-alerts, and lottery newsletters and confidential bulletins.

We educate management and their employees by providing cutting edge online training programs in food handling and alcohol serving; classroom management-level food safety training; an annual regional trade show and annual convention; and all the information listed in the communications above.

No other organization provides all of these services to you because protecting and representing your interests is our sole reason for existing. We know that meeting that mission creates a better operating environment for your business, thus enabling you to be more profitable.

Membership also benefits those associates that sell goods and services to the industry. It is in their best interest to support ORLA too as the ability for their customers to turn a profit and grow their businesses means that their business will in turn sell more goods or services. It behooves all industry members – retail and associate - to support the only association representing their interests in Oregon by becoming a member; for what is good for the retailer is good for the associate and what is good for the associate is good for the retailer. We’re one industry and we’re in this together. If you’re not a member, consider our mission, this message, and support your association. It truly is a low cost investment in your business that will produce large returns. | Steve McCoid, President & CEO, ORLA

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