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How one local business survives among hardest hit industries

April 8, 2009

With a business model linked to three of Oregon’s hardest hit industries, Portland-based Rejuvenation is feeling the full brunt of the recession. The nation’s leading manufacturer and retailer of authentic lighting and house parts, Rejuvenation built its business around cutting-edge sustainability practices. It hopes that same type of innovative thinking will help it endure tough times.

Rejuvenation’s manufacturing and retail divisions rely heavily on the housing and construction industries. The company produces and sells historical reproduction lighting and other house products. In the 12-month period ending February 2009, Oregon’s three worst sub-categories in terms of job loss were Durable Goods Manufacturing, Retail, and Construction, according to the Oregon Labor Department.

“We’re surviving to thrive,” said Rejuvenation president Alysa Rose, adding that the company has experienced unavoidable layoffs in recent months but is continuing to explore options that don’t involve cutting staff. “The upside of tough times is that you really have to employ your best thinking. The economic crisis yields innovation.”

One creative move helped the company trim costs, build morale, and aid the environment. The manufacturing division moved to a four-day work week, providing full-time employees with a three-day weekend and reducing energy usage.

“In manufacturing, there is a critical mass of people you need at any one time to make things work,” said Rose, explaining how cutting employee hours didn’t work in manufacturing operations. “By operating four days a week, we help reduce utility costs. People like having more days off, and we reduced our carbon footprint.”

In retail operations, Rose said more retail employees lost hours than jobs. The move helped Rejuvenation keep more employees working and added flexibility to retail scheduling.

“We wanted to impact as few people as possible,” said Rose. “There’s not a blanket solution across the company. Our strategies are different across retail, manufacturing, and IT.”

Rejuvenation began over 30 years ago as a salvage company focused on reusing architectural parts that otherwise would have ended up in a landfill. When it later started manufacturing authentic replication lighting and house parts, Rejuvenation employed the concept of sustainability into its processes to reduce its impact on the environment. Its Portland retail store is housed in the historic Neustadter Building on in Southeast Portland.

Rejuvenation sells its products nationwide from the web at: http://www.rejuvenation.com/

  
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Chris April 8, 2009

I know many companies have similar work models. However, it would be nice if more would follow. In many cases management received their bonuses (even when they didn’t meet their goals) and let people go. How do you get a bonus when the business is down?

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