Father-Son Success Story
John Witty, here with his son and business partner Brian, started his plumbing heading company, Thermal Mechanical, 14 years ago in Portland. He currently partners with OSU's Austin Family Business Program. The program's mission is to foster healthy family businesses, through seminars, hand-on workshops and other learning tools. Their Website www.familybusinessonline.org provides a central information resource for family business in Oregon and throughout the world.
John, a member of the Creek tribe, is the co-founder of the Oregon Native American Chamber of Commerce and is active in several other Native American business and community development organizations. John works to promote economic growth and stability for Native Americans through education, mentoring and support.
OSU is teaming up with Northwest businesses, state and federal agencies, K-12 school districts, other higher education institutions, private foundations, civic groups and nonprofit organizations to tackle a variety of problems, or to take advantage of opportunities that those partnerships create. Here are just a few examples:
An Energy Conservation Team
More than 330 businesses in the Pacific Northwest are operating more efficiently and inexpensively through an energy-saving program created by a partnership between private industry, Oregon State University and the U.S. Department of Energy.
The Industrial Assessment Center serves as a microcosm for how OSU increasingly is using a team approach to address the needs of the region. The center was created in the late 1980s as a modest effort to help businesses cut energy costs. None of the programs offered by the federal government adequately met regional needs. So industry talked. And OSU listened.
"This isn't a situation where we come into someone's plant and start telling them how to run their business," said David Philbrick, the program leader from OSU. "What we offer is a fresh set of eyes, a look at their operations from a new perspective, and suggestions from common improvements that we've found work from past experience."
The Industrial Assessment Center is now saving each of the 25 manufacturing plants in the Northwest that it works with an average of $160,000 annually through reduced energy costs, increased productivity, and other savings.
Just as important, the businesses gain access to the expertise of OSU engineers, who often are world leaders in their field. And OSU engineering students, who participate in the exercises, gain real world experience.
OSU engineers have helped develop a revolutionary new material to strengthen old bridges, like the Horsetail Creek bridge in the columbia River Gorge.
Saving a Historic Bridge with New Technology
The historic Horsetail Creek bridge in the Columbia River gorge had problems. At the ripe old age of 85, it was plagued by corroded steel, and engineers said its original design wasn't strong enough to accommodate modern traffic.
The Oregon Department of Transportation faced a decision: Should they close the historic bridge, or initiate costly repairs? OSU weighed in with a third alternative.
Faculty in the College of Engineering had been testing, evaluating, and working with new fiber reinforced polymers (FRPs). Though these FRPs look like cloth, they are up to 10 times stronger than steel -- and five times lighter. Together OSU, ODOT and ConTech Services, Inc., of Vancouver, Washington, tackled the Horsetail Creek project
. They used FRPs to strengthen the
bridge, which was repaired for only $30,000 -- without ever being shut down. Horsetail Creek was the first bridge in the United States to undergo this revolutionary new procedure.
But it wonąt be the last. ODOT estimates that 75 percent of the bridges in Oregon need strengthening. "That's just a fraction of the problem we face nationally and internationally on bridges and other structures, " said OSU engineer Damian Kachlakev. "We think FRP materials can play a major role in solving this crisis."
The Family Business
Ortega's Weaving Shop in Chimayo, New Mexico. Hotel Villa Steno in Monterosso al Mare, Italy. Thanda Manzi Safaris in Botswana. Lochmead Dairy in Junction City. On the surface, they have little in common. But look more closely, and some common threads become apparent. They all are successful businesses, owned and run by families. And they have all been touched by the Austin Family Business Program
at Oregon State University, one of the most recognized resources for family businesses in the country.
About 90 percent of all the businesses in Oregon are family-owned or operated, and they face unique challenges -- from how to separate family life from the business environment, to issues of leadership succession.
What makes OSU's Austin Family Business Program really stand out, though, is a personal touch and a deep commitment to families. In the past few years, the program has held seminars and workshops for hundreds of family business owners and managers around the Pacific Northwest.
"Virtually all of these workshops are hosted by the family businesses and held on-site at their facilities," said Pat Frishkoff, director of the OSU program. "That is a real key to the success of our program and what makes us different. Business owners learn better in a work-day environment, and the other participants love it."
The key to making the program work? Partnerships.