Last night, we spent a few minutes with New York Times business columnist and author (Too Big to Fail) Andrew Ross Sorkin, who's in Bend for today's Business Conference and Economic Forecast. Bill Watkins, economic forecaster, was also in the room, dropping wisdom on us media folk.
It was a pleasure to share a room with two men who not only have a solid handle on the local and international economies, but can explain their positions in simple terms. Refreshing.
This is the stuff I learned:
A.R. Sorkin (pictured at right)
On how Central Oregon fits in to the national economic picture: We need to think a little larger. "The things happening here are happening everywhere." Many smaller towns want to attract tech-y server farms right now. How will we differentiate ourselves? Is attracting server farms that may only employ 50 people what we really need? We need to identify what exactly the region can look to for jobs.
On comparisons: We like to lament about how terrible our financial situation is now, but we can't compare now to the pre-2008 years. "That (pre-2008) was Alice in Wonderland world," Maybe 7-8% is the "natural" unemployment number. He noted that had it not been for the federal bailouts, we could have seen unemployment soar to 24.6% in 2009.
On how close to the edge of financial collapse we actually were: "I think we were very close."
On gaining the nitty-gritty personal details that make Sorkin's best-seller, Too Big to Fail, so readable: Offer cues (Mr. Treasure Secretary, did you enjoy your eggs benedict at the XX restaurant on XX day?). Also, let the person you're interviewing know that you know the story. Once they think you have the inside, they'll offer up the juicy, meaty bits.
On his recent trip to the Golden Globe Awards: "It was US magazine come to life." "I was at the kids' table." And he enjoyed a 20 minute conversation with Brad Pitt, discussing family life.
On his economic position: He's not a pessimist, but a realist.
On this year's economic forecast for Central Oregon: Expect it to outpace the rest of the state. (2% growth. Thanks, Facebook).
On what made C.O. grow: Baby boomer wealth. It's gone and "not coming back anytime soon." 80% of the economy is based on California real estate (second homes, transplants, etc). "You need an independent source."
On our potential over-reliance on the brewing industry: " I love it [beer]. I do worry how the community can support that many [breweries]." Bend Brewing Company is his favorite.
, held at the Riverside Convention Center