It’s a veritable tale of two cities: hysteria and calm.
• One: Maybe “hysteria” is a bit of an exaggeration; maybe it should be “near-hysteria.” It started a couple months ago – we were hearing rumors and speculation. What’s Jeld-Wen going to do? What if they leave town? So-and-so heard from so-and-so that so-and-so was moving away and that could mean that Jeld-Wen is leaving, too. The murmuring builds and we start getting anonymous messages.
A bartender called us at one point to urge us to check things out because a customer had just been in the bar and offered to buy any Jeld-Wen employee a drink because they were all going to be unemployed before long (we got that similar message from a couple different places). Well … that’s bar talk. But there was plenty of talk in other places. Neighborhoods were buzzing about someone who left.
Rumors can use up mass amounts of time and energy for no good end… or bad end. Most of the time, they turn out to be something like an undulating cloud of midges … worrisome, but toothless.
You can ignore them for a while, but when buzz is building and persists, there are two possibilities: there’s some grain of truth that is real and upon which the rumors are built and you might want to get to the bottom of it; or the hysteria is just not called for but is building to the point that you might want to dispel the rumors before they become mythical in proportion.
• Two: total calm. No news to report from the company. No reason to talk to the press because nothing is going on. No news is just no news. Of course, we don’t have an insider, so what do we know? Is there no commenting because there’s nothing to comment on, or because commenting would just lead to unwanted attention?
But when the big-city newspaper prints a story about the speculation, things come a little unglued and people start talking openly about the speculation and finally the company talks about it, too. Agitation generally fizzes away when logic is applied … why would Jeld-Wen shutter such a huge and productive portion of their assets? Why wouldn’t they expand an executive operation across the country where major customers are headquartered; but why would they move administrative offices away from a part of the country where so much of their operation is based, including resources used in manufacturing their products?
Community boosters are smiling at the news that there’s no news (but they’re doing that chest rub thing, trying to get their hearts to slow down). And the company folks don’t know what all the excitement was about – there was no more news the day that Oregonian article was published than there was the day before. Yet, we were scrambling for reaction to that report; and we made it the lead story for Thursday’s edition.
So what was this all about?
We had forgotten that “no news” sometimes is news. I think that’s the deal.
You know what? “Hysteria” isn’t the right word, because it implies that there is an unreasonable fear leading to an unreasonable state of mind. Our fear that major chunks of Jeld-Wen might someday leave isn’t unreasonable, because the consequences, while they might not be end-of-the-world for Klamath Falls, would be well over towards horrendous.
Other companies have left or changed courses dramatically, without much notice beforehand. It’s not surprising that we would take small signs and turn them into signals and extrapolate and predict and scare ourselves. Right now, as there always will be, there’s a sizeable portion of the readership that is still unsure and on edge about Jeld-Wen.
Private business is private business. But in Klamath Falls, Jeld-Wen is everyone’s business in that it’s on everyone’s minds. We ought to try to check in every few months or so. And even if there’s no news, when it’s Jeld-Wen, that’s news. We’ll see if we can do better.
Thumbs Up: I was listening to a bowling team co-member describe a meal he was having at one of our favorite local restaurants. Vietnamese. He’d been there before and had some food that made him start sweating (he wasn’t complaining; while many of us enjoy the spice level on the mild-to-moderate side, he’s one of those that likes to explore the boundaries of sanity). “I was expecting the hotness of hot,” he said.
“The hotness of hot.” Maybe there’s limited audience appreciation for this … maybe you’d have to have been there: bowling balls crashing into pins, bowlers socializing all around like bowlers do, with a serious gastronomical discussion in full swing, waxing eloquent and poetic. “The hotness of hot.” They should name a dish after him. We call him “Blinky.”
Thumbs Up: To our summer intern, Ramona DeNies, who finished her 10-week stint Wednesday. “Working for the Herald and News has been a non-stop learning roller-coaster – challenging and addictive. I will miss the work,” she wrote in a parting email. “P.S. Also, you all are crazy, and I will miss that, too.”
Crazy? Yeah, we are a little, I guess.
Does your business operation have the opportunity to utilize internships? I heartily endorse it; every summer we get a fresh journalist, with eyes new to the community and to our operation. The cubs are willing to work hard because they’re getting their careers started and they’re building a portfolio. But the main thing is that they make you think … they ask questions about things you’ve been doing for years and haven’t thought about much for a long time. You rediscover your reasoning. It’s refreshing. So thanks, Ramona. And P.S.: Yeah, you know you’re one of us.
Thumbs Up: I sat in Thursday noon on a presentation by Oregon State Treasurer Ted Wheeler to the Klamath Leadership group and an assortment of area business people and community boosters.
He talked about the Oregon Growth Act, working to accommodate investment in Oregon and West Coast infrastructure, and about building a database of our region’s assets and attributes.
What I liked the most: when he said he wanted us to know that Klamath County has “a friend in the treasurer’s office.” Parts of his speech and question-and-answer made some of the conservative members of the audience tilt their heads. But you could tell he meant well, and he seemed genuinely fond of this region. It’s good to have all the friends that we can get in Salem and Portland; and this one has greater political aspirations, I’m sure.
He said that the recent fears about Jeld-Wen’s future in the Klamath Basin could provide for a teachable moment in a couple regards: folks from around the state could come to realize just how tough the economics of rural Oregon are; all of us need to keep in mind how important diversification is to our local and state economies.
We’re getting ready to ask city government candidates to fill us in on their thinking in some key areas. We’re planning to ask them about:
-- Job creation, preservation and diversification.
-- The downtown area. Redevelopment, old buildings, etc.
-- Codes: What’s too much, what’s not enough?
-- Wastewater issues; the TMDL (total maximum daily load).
-- Public safety as it interfaces from city to suburbs and county.
-- Infrastructure: some of our neighborhoods have really old streets, sewers, water systems.
Is there anything glaringly absent? What about questions for county positions? Let us know by commenting here or on Facebook.