Talkin’ about five generations

Eddy Family

It’s always a privilege and a pleasure to write about a family-owned business. Port Blakely isn’t a household name, but it has deep roots — literally. The company has been growing trees for five generations and owns 200,000 acres in Washington, Oregon and New Zealand. The family wants to make money, but also take care of the land. “When you’re standing on top of a ridge looking at 20,000 acres of forest that you’re responsible for managing, and all the wildlife and natural resources there, it’s a pretty humbling and awesome experience,” said Rene Ancinas, CEO and great-grandson of one of the company’s founders. My story ran in the Feb. 1 edition of the Puget Sound Business Journal.

Pass the drumsticks

I really LOVE writing for the Tacoma School District website. So many cool and inspiring stories to tell. I recently wrote about the Lincoln High School Drumline after two nationally known pros, Ralph Nader and Harvey Thompson (below), spent a weekend coaching and inspiring drumline members.

Tacoma Public Schools.  Sheridan Elem. School  5th grade teacher Jennifer Fagan uses Microsoft Teams application allowing students and teachers to participate in online chats and to work on projects online together. Photos by Russ Carmack

Their visit was made by possible by a spontaneous $1,500 donation to the drumline by a Tacoma couple, Dan and Margaret Hannula, who were “blown away” after watching the drumline perform at a community event. I was also blown away by the dedication  and thoughfulness of the students and by the energy and commitment of their director, Peter Briggs.

Here’s a quote from Dan Hannula about why he and his wife reached for their checkbook. The quote didn’t make it into the story, but probably should have. “Sometimes we hear negative things about the youth of this country, and how many problems we have, but I saw all these young people who were enthusiastic and talented … and very wonderful representatives of Lincoln High School.”

True that!

À votre santé!

The worst part about  free-lance writing is the best part. You never know what’s around the corner. You may score a half-dozen assignments one month, then get skunked the next. New clients can pop up like dandelions, then blow away with the breeze.

Right now I’m celebrating an opportunity that popped up to write for the Microsoft Alumni Network – a gig that allowed me to profile Claude Changarnier (on the left), a retired Microsoft executive whose family has grown grapes and made wine in the Burgundy region of France for more than 250 years.

Some stories transport you as you are writing them. Writing about Domaine Changarnier made me thirsty and ready to grab a passport.

Oh boy! Oh well

Hard on the heels of my story about the centennial of Oberto Brands last month came some bittersweet news. The Oberto family is thinking about selling the jerky juggernaut.

The sweet part is that the family appears to be acting on their terms and not because they have no choice. Oberto

The not-so-sweet part — at least for me — is the possible loss of one more family business to corporate ownership.

Longtime family businesses like Oberto — founded in Seattle in 1918 and now based in Kent — are local treasures. Their unique and refreshing ways of doing business reflect the quirks of their founders and the character of the communities where they’re rooted.

I was disappointed the timing wasn’t right for me to interview Oberto Brands patriarch Art Oberto for my story in the Puget Sound Business Journal, but the Seattle Times published this terrific profile a number of years back. To read my story, click on Story Links in the menu bar above and look under Business.