Oregon Business & Industry aims to lobby hard for statewide businesses in a bipartisan manner.

COURTESY: REX HILL WINES - Sam Tannahill promises Oregon Business & Industry will work towards bipartisan solutions in the Oregon legislature.

The new statewide business lobbying group, Oregon Business & Industry, will be bipartisan.

So says Sam Tannahill, the inaugural board chair of OBI.

Last November, the state's two business associations, Associated Oregon Industries and the Oregon Business Association, voted to merge because they were duplicating their efforts. The new association became effective July 1, 2017.

Tannahill is the founder and chairman of A to Z Wineworks and was the Oregon Business Alliance Board Chair until the merger.

"This is a brand new group, and rather than being on one side or the other we're bipartisan. Even more than being conservative or progressive, Republican or Democrat, we are Oregonians."

"We want to maintain a prosperous Oregon," he said, citing the record low unemployment. "A healthy and productive Oregon means a healthy and productive business community."

OBI has a 70-member board and an executive committee of 15. There are nine policy committees. OBI was set to have its first full board meeting on Thursday, July 20, at the World Trade Center downtown.

The new board was formed by combining members in three categories: Dual funders, OBA-only funders, and AOI-only funders. They were each allocated a third of the 70 board positions.

As part of being bi partisan, OBI is aiming to give a fair shake to companies and industries wherever they are in Oregon. "It's about business organizations forming the first board, not the type of industry or where it's located."

Asked if a board of 70 people can get anything done, Tannahill laughed. "We will find out. As in any organization, a lot of work is done in committee and the executive committee. Then brought forward to the board. They are not shy. They have strong opinions and are successful people."

The organization is using the recruiter Murphy Simmonds and Stowell in a nationwide search for a CEO, and expects he or she to be in place by the October.

Tannahill says the members of OBA and now OBI have done a lot to make the new organization, but it needs to be brought to life.

"We've created the shell, now we need someone to fill the shell and get it rolling."

He said they are looking for a CEO with policy experience, rather than political experience. "Someone who's able to run an organization and a staff. We'll have lobbyists full time, PR people and admin people, like any other business."

The OBA was formed three decades ago as a slightly more progressive breakaway from the century-old AOI, which was dominated by agricultural and heavy industry concerns.

Bringing the concerns of these two organizations together was complicated. OBI will work on the Oregon Business Plan with the Oregon Business Council and Portland Business Alliance.

At the time of the vote Tannahill said "We're taking the best from AOI and OBA in order to create a truly new association that benefits from broad-based, diverse perspectives and needs."

While waiting for the legislature's 2018 short session to begin, OBI will not stop lobbying. "Coming up we have a lot to do. It's unfortunate the elected leaders

Weren't able to get to an agreement on cost containment and new revenues. That's still a story to be told. There's an election in 2018 and potential ballot measures being filed."

Tannahill says people will have to learn that they plan on being bipartisan. "Politicians may have had assumptions about the other groups, but this is a new organization. Hopefully they don't have assumptions until they've work with us."

At the time of the vote, Tannahill said, "We're taking the best from AOI and OBA in order to create a truly new association that benefits from broad-based, diverse perspectives and needs."

In the short session OBI will be fully engaged working with stakeholders to see a stable, balanced budget.

His top three wish list?

"We want to see cost containment, stabilized streams of revenue, and education." He knows it's a tall order to get that done in a short session.

"The biggest concern we have is the looming financial challenge. We all need to work together to fix those problems, for us and for our kids. And I have three kids."

Tannahill's winery is in Newberg, but he lives in Southwest Portland. He has two kids in private school and one in public school.

Tannahill wrote in an op ed in The Oregonian/OregonLive on July 18 that while the recent session produced a $5.3 billion transportation package, it fell down when it came to reigning in the "cost of the Public Employees Retirement System and health benefits for government workers, as well as increasing revenue for educational investments with measurable outcomes."

He wrote that instead of getting into a back and forth of ballot measure, "The business community is as unified as it has been in decades, and that will help us work with government leaders toward goals that we all agree on."

Joseph Gallivan

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