By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

N-R spending spree rivals Cover Oregon

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Too often, startling statistics are just numbers on a page, easily ignored because they lack real-life perspective. So it is with the federal deficit, Medicare and the cost of foreign wars, to name a few.

Oregonians still are trying to comprehend how the state spent almost $250 million trying to build an online highway into the center of Obamacare, mostly with federal funds. Turns out that our 12-lane superhighway had no on-ramp and dead-ended at the Pacific Ocean instead of traveling east to Washington, D.C.

It started me thinking about the past 25 years of our family and community business.

In that time, we published and distributed about 3,600 issues of the newspaper and hundreds of special sections and magazines. Along the way, we paid tens of millions of dollars to an average of about 90 people a year. Those people built homes and raised children, many of whom now have children.

Our company purchased and renovated an office/warehouse complex covering an acre of downtown McMinnville. We bought eight acres of industrial land on the edge of town, built a 35,000-square-foot printing plant and installed a state-of-the-art web press. We paid more tens of millions of dollars for newsprint, ink and complex computer and software systems.

One month, we printed 7.5 million press pieces for the Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet. We helped launch, and for some years operated, local Internet company OnlineNW.

All told, those payrolls, those hundreds of thousands of published stories and those hundreds of millions of printed sheets cost us — drum roll, please — about $250 million.

In fairness to Cover Oregon, which blew its money in just the past few years, I adjusted that quarter-century of News-Register spending into 2013 dollars to account for inflation. I wanted to be fair.

An insider might complain that I didn’t include almost $150 million we spent (in 2013 dollars) operating Bridgetown Printing Co. in Portland for 12 years. But I also skipped another state software project, Oregon Benefits Online, which reportedly has spent $71 million of its $142-million budget and is only 11 percent functional.

It’s no surprise the Cover Oregon board wants to sweep it all away. But in its rush, the board reportedly exceeded its legal authority in deciding unilaterally to switch to the federal health care exchange. The hits just keep on coming.

Meanwhile, this stroll down our memory lane is dedicated to those who at least shared some of Cover Oregon’s in-state payroll.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.

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