Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Alumni Reunite, Explore Alumni-owned businesses in Portland

Twenty four AIESEC Alumni and a couple AIESECers from the "All-Wet Subregion" (PAC NW) gathered on November 1st to have what we hope will be the first of many joint alumni events in the region.

Fresh from Halloween revels the night before, we met at an Indian restaurant called Tandoor in the afternoon. After having some conversations we began to discuss the reasons we had all come together to meet again. We spoke of building a strong alumni community in the area, having more events, enabling the AIESEC chapters in Seattle and Portland, and of AIESECLife.

Following lunch Frank Foti, CEO of Vigor Industrial led a nine car procession to some of the 64 acres of land upon which rested his enterprise. Frank began the tour by donating two computers and some software to AIESEC Oregon. Frank spoke to us of how he started the business by basically buying a lottery ticket (the firm was many millions in debt and on the verge of filing bankruptcy) in a company whose work he knew very little about. Now, several years later, Vigor Industrial is profitable and growing, one of the few shipyards left along the Pacific coast.

After donning our hard hats and safety goggles Frank took us on a tour through his playground (the shipyard). He showed us how the massive ships were docked, cleaned, and moved. Needless to say, the general feeling among the attendees there was that we were indeed fortunate this day, for we were being given a chance to look into and learn about a world that was entirely new to us. Veritably, to meet a man, in Frank, who was an exemplary model of what it means to live the AIESEC way.

Following our unforgettable experience at the Shipyard we headed next to Portland Roasting Company, where we were met by Todd Plummer, AIESEC Oregon alumnus and co-founder of the company and Dan Welch, AIESEC Oregon alumnus and owner of World Cup Coffee. Todd and Dan led us on a tour through the warehouse and roasting areas en route to the cupping room. They spoke to us of the different markets the two firms operated in, how they had found their different paths into the coffee biz, how the firms had grown, and much more. Finally, we experienced the process of cupping, which is how coffee artisans sample and evaluate different coffee blends for taste, smell, et al.

The process involved a lot of slurping and spitting.  It was a lot of fun.  Having shown us the work of Portland Roasting Company, Todd gifted everyone there with coffee, courtesy of Portland Rosting Company.

By this time, we were all hungry so we adjourned to a microbrewery in the Pearl district for food and drink.  It was a nice way to end the day and we all agreed to do this again soon, next time in Seattle.  The conversations, work and networking that started here would be carried forth.