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How Does Mt. Hood Inc. Stack Up Against Other Oregon Companies


Among all Oregon’s famous brands — Nike, Pendleton, Jeld-Wen — one name frequently left off the “Top Companies” list is that of Mt. Hood.

The state’s most iconic spot employs thousands of people and generates millions of dollars in products and value. But it’s not always considered an economic player.

April Baer wraps up our week-long look at the economic impact of the mountain, that we’re calling Mt. Hood Inc. She examines how this iconic peak stacks up against Oregon corporations.

 

If you think about it, Laura Guderyahn and everyone else wandering and skiing the slopes are Mt. Hood Inc.’s happy customers.

Laura Guderyahn “I’m up here all the time, I do wildife surveys throughout the national forest. Seeing it as I’m hiking and rock climbing all over the mountain. The outdoors and the natural beauty of the outdoors is one of the things I value the most.”

No question about it. The economic generator we like to call “Mt. Hood, Inc.” has some great business relationships in Western Oregon. Those aren’t limited to recreational visitors.

Rob and Kurt Widmer

April Baer / OPB

Rob Widmer “I just can’t imagine this region without Mt. Hood.”

Rob Widmer and his brother Kurt grew up in Portland. Their north-end brewery has grown into one of the most recognizable brands in the state - and the 9th largest brewery in the country. But Rob says the Widmers’ partnership with the mountain isn’t all business.

Rob Widmer “My wife and I were married at Cloud Cap.” 

That’s the historic Inn on the mountain’s northeast side. Kurt Widmer isn’t big on outdoor adventures. But as a businessman, he’s calculated how much his personal enjoyment of the mountain is worth.

Kurt Widmer “Personally on an annualized basis, I would say it’s worth $25,000 a year.”

He’s thought a lot about how Mt. Hood affects the brewing business, too.

Kurt Widmer “It comes down to the water value. And that we can quantify pretty easily.”

Widmer Brothers brews all its beers with water from the Bull Run Watershed, originating in the Mt. Hood National Forest.

Kurt Widmer “That’s probably half a million dollars a year. We’re the envy of the brewing world, to have that resource.”

April Baer / OPB

The Widmer Brothers don’t even hesitate when you ask them about the value of Mt. Hood. Would they do lunch with the CEO of Mt. Hood, Inc.?

Kurt and Rob Widmer “Sure. Sure. Absolutely. It’d be fascinating.”

But outside the Widmer HQ, it’s hard to compare the worth of the business we’re calling Mt. Hood Inc. to other corporations.

Will Swope “The comparison is a little awkward.”

Will Swope just retired as Vice President for Intel’s Corporate Sustainability Group. We’re grabbing lunch at one of the best places to see Mount Hood, the Portland City Grill. He’s game to compare the mountain to Oregon’s corporations, he points out that in some respects it’s not a fair fight.

Will Swope “I never really got a real kick out of visiting Intel on the weekends.”

Swope loves Mt. Hood. He lives close by, in White Salmon, Washington. His sustainability background lets him appreciate the enormous quality of life associated with the mountain—the benefits of living near Mt. Hood Inc. But at the end of the day, he feels his former employer is the more formidable economic generator.

Will Swope “The market cap of Intel is probably $115 billion today. It’s made thousands of millionaires in Oregon. The difference in housing prices and education in the west side of Portland. Mt. Hood as an entity is a fantastic place, and I’m honored I live near it, but it doesn’t have the economic drive in the probably hundred thousand jobs Intel actually touches. It’s different.”

But as a local economist points out, this economic engine we’re calling Mt. Hood Inc. is different, too. It has one advantage over even the biggest corporations: its value over time.

Ed Whitelaw “There is a whole field in economics that addresses these kinds of issues.”

That’s Ed Whitelaw. He’s an economics  professor at the University of Oregon, and chair of the consulting firm ECONorthwest.

Ed Whitelaw “So what we were talking about is the values of say a Mt. Hood, Intel, the corner grocery, or the Oregon Coast.”

Whitelaw says one way to attack comparative value is to think about it as if you were deciding whether to buy a business.

Ed Whitelaw “One of the concepts in valuing something is how long it’s going to last.”

Let’s say you wanted to buy a company. You’d look at its value. You’d start thinking about whether it’s something people will still need ten, twenty, or thirty years down the road. Could it become obsolete? If the corporation risks becoming obsolete, you discount its value accordingly.

Ed Whitelaw “If you’re talking Intel, you’re talking decades. I’d bet in 30 years, it won’t be around, there’s a lot of flux, a lot of turnaround.”

Now, Whitelaw says, think about how long Mt. Hood will provide its unique value in Oregon.

Ed Whitelaw “If you’re talking about Mt. Hood you’re talking millennia”

Just as Mt. Hood was here long before Western settlers first came, Whitelaw says the odds are very good it’ll probably be here longer than any Oregon company you can name.

By the way, former Intel exec Will Swope sees one problem.

Will Swope “Well, you see, in the long term we’re all dead.”

OK fair enough, but economist Ed Whitelaw says if you’re willing to look at its assets over time, Mount Hood Inc. has the potential to pencil out as Oregon’s ultimate economic engine, even if it’s balance sheet isn’t as big as the state’s top players.

Ed Whitelaw “if you want to get it down to dollars, Mt. Hood’s is infinite.”


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