Twenty Candles

In May 1990 the Clyde Drexler-led Portland Trail Blazers fielded a great team that went to the NBA finals. That same month, CFM fielded its first team, playing in the court of public opinion.On May 27, CFM marked its 20th year in business. CFM was formed in 1990 with a single-minded focus of helping clients achieve success through strategic communications and lobbying with integrity. 

"We still hold those values," says CFM president and co-founder Gary Conkling. "It is the core of our business."

Over two decades, CFM has expanded from lobbying to become one of the region's top public relations agencies and research firms.

"CFM is known for getting legislative results for clients in Salem and Washington, D.C." says co-founder Dave Fiskum, who leads the firm's state lobby practice. "But today clients require a more integrated approach to problem-solving. Effective lobbying demands good research and strategic communications."

The discipline CFM uses to get legislative results translates into success in marketing products or selling ideas. "While we offer a range of services from federal lobbying to crisis communications," explains Conkling, "all of our staff follows the same proven path to success – solid research, compelling arguments, creative ideas and hard work."

CFM began as a spinout from Tektronix, Inc. and as a joint venture with the law firm Stoel Rives. In its history, CFM has been involved with major issues that touch the lives of people in the Pacific Northwest, such as campaigns to allow assisted suicide, discourage teens from smoking and investing in roads and bridges. CFM handled media relations for the restoration of Portland City Hall, sent a staff member to New York after the 9/11 attacks and introduced the first Whole Foods Market to Portland.

"We've had a great run and we still have the energy and zest to dive in to help clients," Fiskum says. Adds Conkling, "The Internet and social media have added amazing new dimensions to our work, which keeps us on our toes and continuously on the lookout for new, effective ways to solve problems for clients. We have talented young professionals that team with seasoned veterans to give clients practical advice with a dash of excitement."

Here are 10 examples of CFM activity over the last two decades:

Early years:

1. Helping the Portland area become greener: By using our research and issues management skills, we helped Metro establish and fund the region’s first efforts to acquire and preserve open spaces.

2. Helping Portland Community College grow: Through our research and campaign communications efforts, PCC won a $90 million bond measure to construct facilities supporting workforce training and other educational needs.

3. Helping renovate historic buildings: Portland’s only city hall (1895), Blitz-Weinhard Brewhouse (1905) and Central Library (1913) were rebuilt with CFM public affairs staffers serving on various project management teams.

Middle years:

4. Helping the Red Cross help others: At the time of the September 11 terrorist attack, the Oregon Trail Chapter of the American Red Cross was going through a transition in its communications office. CFM immediately assigned one of its own staff members to work full-time on-site. He wrote key messages, set priorities, tracked requests and made staff assignments.

5. Building transportation systems: Through the efforts of CFM’s state lobby team, Oregon lawmakers have passed major funding programs to fix our bridges and roads, as well as fund deepening of the Columbia River shipping channel. Our federal affairs team has helped bring home transit funding to places such as Marion County.

6. Extending health care to those in need: Our state and federal lobbying teams have affected numerous pieces of legislation making it possible for Providence Health & Services to extend care to seniors, low-income persons and children.

More recently:

7. Assisting Oregon Public Broadcasting to go digital: Our lobby team in Salem gained state financing for OPB and other public broadcasters to extend digital television service to rural communities.

8. Redeveloping downtown Vancouver: Our federal lobbying team helped the City of Vancouver, Washington obtain more than $7 million in federal funds, providing infrastructure support for a massive downtown waterfront redevelopment project.

9. Creating a trade association for manufacturing: CFM led in the founding of the Manufacturing 21 Coalition, which has effectively leveraged millions of public funds for investments in university-level applied research, as well as supporting workforce training programs throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington.

10. Branding new products: CFM helped Henry Weinhard's introduction of Boar's Head Red, then worked with developers Gerding Edlen create the Brewery Blocks. More recently, the firm has help other food and beverage producers expand into new areas and launch new products.