Locally Owned & Operated Small Business Month highlights the thriving ecosystem in Lane County

article by William Kennedy | Contributor

May is Small Business Month! We can’t wait to share stories from local businesses around our region, and highlight the impact these leaders having on our community. Join us at Open for Business all month long for stories, inspiration, and connections!

It was 4:30 pm on a Friday, the absolute worst time for a piece of restaurant equipment to go down, according to Jeannine Parisi, co-owner of Claim 52 Brewing. 

Parisi’s business is a locally-owned brewery with manufacturing and distribution space in West Eugene, and Claim 52 Kitchen, a restaurant on Willamette Street in downtown Eugene.

In their time of need, Claim 52 crew were able to call a local technician. “They hooked us up, and gave us a great price,” says Parisi. And because of that, Claim 52 was able to solve a problem in less than an hour, “that could have been a calamity for us,” adds Parisi. 

At Claim 52, “We rely on a network of manufacturers and purveyors to keep us humming,” she says.

This is just one example of how a thriving locally-owned business ecosystem benefits everyone, from financial institutions like Oregon Community Credit Union (OCCU), to long-time local builders, Chambers Construction, and even those working behind-the-scenes in software development at IEQ Technology. Supporting the food and beverage industry,  SnoTemp Cold Storage handles the logistics of cold storage in West Eugene.

As Small Business Month of May concludes, here’s a closer look at just some of the ways local businesses succeed together to build a brighter future for the community that business owners and their employees call home.

As Parisi from Claim 52 is well aware, when it comes to the manufacturing, storage, and distribution of perishable goods like food and beverage, cold temperatures are crucial. 

In Lane County since the 1950s, SnoTemp Cold Storage, a third-generation family-owned business, provides that crucial service to farmers as well as food and beverage manufacturers and purveyors.

Growth in the local food and beverage sector is expected to outpace other industries by 2030, based on data from Lane Workforce Partnership.

According to SnoTemp CEO Paula Lafferty — the granddaughter of SnoTemp founder, Paul Lafferty — SnoTemp is a “third-party logistics company with temperature-controlled warehousing space,” that’s essential for farmers, fisherman, and food manufacturers. 

“We store goods for them; we keep track of it, and make sure that it stays in food-safe temperatures. And when they’re ready to ship it, we release it to them.”

“Proximity plays a huge role in what we do. We’re able to provide the infrastructure in one location,” says Lafferty. 

For food and beverage startups supported by SnoTemp, it all begins with financing. That’s something the locally-headquartered, not-for-profit financial institution, OCCU is uniquely positioned to handle.

According to OCCU Vice President of Business Services Genevieve Sumnall, the credit union has, “the agility and the decision-makers right here. We want to be life-long financial partners. As a member-owned not-for-profit, this allows us to return our profits to our business members in the form of higher yields on savings, money markets and certificates, and also lower rates on credit cards and loans,” she says.

In the modern economy, software is required to do business, from managing inventory to point-of-sale and supply chain issues. For Lane County businesses, locally-owned IEQ Technology offers software development and legacy system management.

“A robust small business economy is more business for us,” says Tim Woolley, president of IEQ Technology. 

According to Lane Workforce Partnership, the Lane County tech sector provides more than $3 million in payroll to the local economy, and is expected to grow at a rate of more than 20% by 2030, compared to 15% expected growth in other industries.

On that note, “A larger pool of business means more opportunity to collaborate with other companies,” adds Woolley.

Software like IEQ Technology develops and maintains is just one cornerstone of modern business, though. Since 1955, Chambers Construction has built the future of companies large and small in a more tangible sense.

“When our local economy is strong and financing is available, there is a kind of ripple effect:  Local companies are better able to produce the raw materials and provide the services we need to deliver on our projects,” says Chambers Construction Director of Marketing and Business Development Joy Pendowski.

Pendowski adds, her company, “plays a critical role with businesses who are looking to move locations, expand their current buildings, or reconfigure their facilities and offices to better meet their customer’s needs.”

“The more we can source locally, the better it is for us with availability and supply chain challenges so we can meet project deadlines,” she continues. 

“Being late on a project can have a significant negative impact for a customer. So, whenever we can partner with or purchase from local businesses, not only do we position ourselves for project success, we are also supporting the growth of our industry and creating jobs,” she says.

Jeannine Parisi from Claim 52 also touches on how important a short supply chain can be for local business, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What we’ve learned through the pandemic and COVID, disruption of the supply chain has been challenging for all businesses. It’s easier if you’re local. The more local you are, the less vulnerable you are — you’re less impacted by supply chain issues,“ says Parisi.

As can be seen, a thriving locally-owned business ecosystem is clearly important for business owners, their employees and their families. But according to Tim Woolley, president of IEQ Technology, it’s good for the whole community.

Locally-owned businesses are your neighbors, says Woolley, “That’s why we always strive to buy locally as much as we can,” he adds.

“We’re invested in the business doing well and the whole community doing well. We want to see the community thrive and be successful,” says Paula Lafferty from SnoTemp Cold Storage.

“Local businesses are really the soul of any community,” says Genevieve Sumnall from OCCU. “Our membership community supporting one another means more jobs and more spending, and a strong economy creates strong communities. We have the agility and the decision-makers right here,”she adds. 

“We want to be life-long financial partners,” Sumnall says. 

Small, local businesses are built on that foundation of partnership. Partnership with each other, partnership with our government and partnership with our community members. 

The Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce exists to help build and foster those authentic partnerships. 

“Our community wouldn’t be who we are today without the hard-work and dedication of our small business leaders. Our chamber exists because of and in support of creating that vibrant, thriving economy built by our local businesses. We are all better off because of these partnerships,” Brittany Quick-Warner, President and CEO at the Eugene Chamber reflects.

William Kennedy is a full-time freelance content writer and journalist based in Eugene, OR. With over a decade of experience, William covers live music for the Eugene Weekly, where he has also covered arts and culture, food, news, and current events. His writing has appeared on the University of Oregon website and newsletter, in Eugene Magazine, and on Highgroundgaming.com, among other publications. When not working, chances are you can find him with his nose in a book or magazine reading about news, history (especially British and European history), and arts and culture. He lives with his wife, daughter, and two cats who all politely accommodate his obsession with Doctor Who and The New Yorker.

Published On: May 30, 2023
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