Dale Penn II

Penn Led Legislative Funding Effort for Iconic Salem Amphitheater

The uniquely designed Gerry Frank/Salem Rotary Amphitheater, which should be completed in the fall of 2020, will become an iconic part of the capital city’s riverfront and a major cultural and entertainment venue.

The uniquely designed Gerry Frank/Salem Rotary Amphitheater, which should be completed in the fall of 2020, will become an iconic part of the capital city’s riverfront and a major cultural and entertainment venue.

CFM Partner Dale Penn II led the successful lobby effort at the 2019 Oregon legislature that resulted in a $1 million grant to build the Gerry Frank /Salem Rotary Amphitheater at Riverfront Park.

“I’m a fervent supporter of Rotary and what it does for communities,” Penn said. “But my main reason in leading the lobby effort was my son, Grayson, who I want to have an amazing event site in Salem that he can experience as he grows up.” 

Community fundraising has already topped $1.4 million. The City of Salem has committed to bringing utilities to the riverfront site, expand public access and enhance existing undeveloped land. The amphitheater should be completed in the fall of 2020.

The uniquely designed amphitheater was named in honor of Frank for his lifetime of tireless support for Oregon tourism, business development, public safety and social services. Frank holds membership card No. 1 for the Salem Rotary.

The open-weave basket design honors the Native American Kalapuya who once lived on the site of the amphitheater, which will become a regional and cultural landmark and host to concerts, festivals, school events and cultural education.

Salem-area lawmakers, including the late Senate Jackie Winters, championed the state funding, Penn said. Bruce Anderson of NW Natural, Tammy Dennee of the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association and Ozzie Rose joined Penn in lobbying for the $1 million grant.

“Any allocation of $1 million is tough, no matter the economic situation, so this required diligent work, persuasive economic and cultural arguments and support from legislative leaders like Senators Betsy Johnson, Denyc Boles and Winters along with Representatives Brian Clem, Paul Evans and others,” Penn said.

Penn leads CFM’s state affairs practice and has extensive experience lobbying the Oregon Joint Ways and Means Committee, which makes spending decisions in the legislature.

Smooth Transition Fuels CFM Growth

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Transitioning a personal services firm is a high-wire act. CFM managed to do it with minimal publicity and without losing legacy clients. It may have been one of the best PR moves the firm has made in its 28-year history.

The move from older to younger generation owners has proven a huge success. However, the transition didn’t always look so promising. “We started the transition discussion almost a decade ago,” recalls CFM co-founder Gary Conkling. “Every promising idea we had flopped.”

Transitions don’t occur in suspended reality. “Partners retired or left,” recalled Conkling. “Employees, including ones in line to become partners, peeled off.” Owning a personal services firm is not everyone’s cup of tea.

Senior CFM partners Norm Eder, Tom Eiland and Dave Fiskum got lots of advice, considered varied paths and lived through a series of failed opportunities. “We wound up,” Conkling said, “going back to basics.”

The goal was to enlist two to four young professionals who shared CFM’s vision for integrity and saw potential in a brand dedicated to results, not optics. Several candidates surfaced, but the two who stuck it out because they saw the potential for the firm and themselves were Joel Rubin and Dale Penn II. They made the transition possible and are now the owner-operators of CFM.

“Owning your own firm is an intriguing option,” Rubin says. “Owning a firm with a reputation for integrity and a commitment to client result is a dream come true.”

“From the beginning, CFM always felt like the right fit for my goals,” explains Penn. “Now Joel and I have a chance to build on past successes to scale new heights.”

Transitioning a 28-year-old personal services firm is not a small undertaking. However, the sellers and the buyers shared one important common goal – a transition that was seamless to clients. The sale date came and went with minimal notice. Clients were informed there would be no changes in their service. Yes, new people were in charge, but the old people were still at the wheel.

“We didn’t want the change of ownership to reflect a change in how we represent clients,” Rubin said. “Our priorities didn’t change and the way we advocate for our clients didn’t change,” Penn added.

Six months after the sale of CFM was consummated, the only noticeable change has been an increase in client work. “Whenever a firm with CFM's prestige transitions to new owners, there's sometimes the question of continuity,” Penn admitted. “But our senior partners have remained on the job and existing and prospective clients have responded positively.”

It may be too soon to judge the ultimate success of the CFM transition, but not too soon for this observation: “I have been impressed by how everyone in our organization has responded to the change in ownership,” says Rubin. “There is a feeling that if we can pull off a transition like this, we can do anything. That attitude is infectious and it is the attitude that is attracting clients.”