Last year about this time, we launched on a project to look at the challenges confronting downtown Portland after (we’d hoped) the height of the pandemic and protests. That project, “Downtown in Distress,” included reporting on homelessness, the mood of downtown residents and the challenges for retailers, as well as results from an independent poll.

The delta and omicron variants threw a wrench in expectations for a quick return to normal in 2021. And just a week ago, more bad news. A longtime retailer, Margulis Jewelers, announced it was closing its landmark downtown store.

“Customers are reluctant to come downtown to shop,” owner David Margulis said in a news release. “Employees choose not to work downtown.”

It’s clear that more than two years into the pandemic, Portland has significant economic challenges. And The Oregonian/OregonLive continues to invest in business reporting.

“We’re mobilizing around a goal to cover all aspects of Oregonians’ financial lives, from the effects of the state and national economy, to shopping for goods and services, to housing, personal finance, and work life,” said Elliot Njus, who leads our Business & Economy team.

Njus previously covered real estate/housing, transportation and other subjects. Most recently, he led the development of podcasts for our newsroom.

Coverage of two major businesses in our area falls to veteran business reporters Mike Rogoway and Jeff Manning.

Rogoway is Oregon’s indispensable read for news about Intel, one of the state’s largest private employers. At the start of the pandemic, he almost singlehandedly birddogged the problems the Oregon Employment Department had getting jobless benefits to Oregonians.

With politics reporter Hillary Borrud in 2020, he broke the story of how Oregon’s failure to waive a week’s hiatus before benefits started would cost Oregonians more than $100 million in federal relief. The governor quickly vowed to eliminate the “waiting week.”

Rogoway, who has a master’s of business administration from University of Washington, also covers technology, software and related companies. He keeps an eye on emerging businesses as well, such as Dutch Bros, the drive-thru coffee chain that had its initial public offering last year.

Manning covers Nike, as well as related companies and the intersection of sports and business. He also reports on health care businesses and specializes in investigative work with an eye toward white collar crime.

Jamie Goldberg, who had covered the Portland Timbers/Thorns and the Portland Trail Blazers for us, transferred to business when sports shut down at the start of the pandemic in 2020. She has spent the past two years covering the unemployed, the plight of tenants and landlords, and the struggles and successes of small businesses.

Goldberg, who has a master’s degree in journalism from University of California, Berkeley, is also a breaking news editor part of the week.

Another relative newcomer to the team is Jayati Ramakrishnan, who joined The Oregonian/OregonLive in 2019 from the Hermiston Herald. She started on the breaking news team but now covers transportation and housing. She is a graduate of the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communications.

Just this month, we’ve added even more reporting firepower. Kristine de Leon covers retail, small business and other business trends for us, such as her recent explainer on why gasoline prices vary so much depending on which Oregon county you are in.

De Leon was pursuing a Ph.D. in microbiology before catching the reporting bug. She earned her master’s in journalism from University of Southern California. She is skilled in data analysis, coding and web development, which will serve her well as she explores business and economic trends.

When I started at The Oregonian in 1983, the Business department, like the rest of the newsroom, was predominantly staffed by men. What few women reporters we had were primarily in the features department, writing for the Living section. It’s great to have a team of Business reporters with such diverse life experiences, perspectives and interests.

The team’s work is supplemented by other reporters, such as Ted Sickinger, who covers forestry and utilities; Borrud, who reports on state government and politics; and Shane Dixon Kavanaugh, who is on the Portland City Hall beat.

We know interest in business topics is strong. We can see that through the large numbers of people who read articles on OregonLive and follow us on social media (On Twitter, @OregonianBiz has the second biggest following after our main account). You can sign up for our Oregon Business Insights newsletter at oregonlive.com/newsletters.

The Oregonian/OregonLive’s employees left our downtown offices and went to remote work March 17, 2020. This spring, we expect some journalists will return to our offices along Southwest First Avenue and others will continue to work remotely. I hope to see our reporters and editors back visiting workplaces, covering events, and meeting sources for coffee face to face, just as often as we used to. I’m looking forward to spending more of my time in our downtown newsroom again.

Note: Longtime Oregon civic leader Gerry Frank was asked to write a column for The Oregonian back in 1988. His column, named “Friday Surprise” after the Meier & Frank sales by that name, appeared in the A section for many years.

More recently, in the features section, his popular monthly column highlighted Oregon travel and dining prospects for readers. Frank died March 13 at age 98. We know readers will miss his informative tips and insights, as will we.

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