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C.O. small businesses feeling Port of Portland woes


The Port of Portland might be far away from Central Oregon, but the impact of two major shipping companies leaving the port is being felt by small businesses across the High Desert.

Gopher Kegs in Bend is bustling with orders.

“There is almost a brewery opening, 1.5 breweries opening in this country every day,” Scott Jennrich of Gopher Kegs said Thursday.

The company is serving small breweries in almost every state and even Canada. Before it can ship them, however, the kegs have to make their way to Bend from Shanghai, China.

Since Hanjin has left the Port of Portland, it has thrown a wrench in their operations.

“Right now, we’re running a little low on some stock items, and they’re in Seattle as we speak,” Jennrich said. “It used to be one or two days for them to get here — and now it could be up to four weeks, we just don’t know.”

Gopher Kegs is not alone.

“We have received shipments, but in a much-delayed schedule,” said Young Joen, director of product commercialization at Ruffwear, a Bend performance dog gear company.

The situation is putting a strain on small businesses.

“It’s a critical link between our companies to the rest of the world,” said Roger Lee, executive director of Economic Development for Central Oregon.

Shipments now go to Seattle, but the railroad system is backed up. It is a delay that is costing companies money.

“Instead of incurring a financing cost for 30 days while they ship, we’re now incurring a financing fee for almost 60 days while they ship,” Jennrich said.

The trouble has forced small businesses like Ruffwear to find other options.

“Sometime mid-last year, we saw the trouble looming, so we made the decision to change inventory levels,” Joen said.

Despite the difficulties, Ruffwear had its most successful quarter yet. It’s all due to planning, and Joen also said they were able to absorb some of the additional shipping costs.

On Wednesday, Gov. Brown announced a $300,000 investment to help small businesses offset the cost. Of that, $250,000 will be spent to prepare options for the 2016 Legislature to consider.

For many businesses, including Gopher Kegs and Ruffwear, the governor’s actions are too little, too late.

“The storm hasn’t ended yet. It literally has just begun,” Joen said.

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