Joel Rubin

Smooth Transition Fuels CFM Growth

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.”



CFM’s Productive Month for its Federal Affairs Clients

The Mill City Historic Railroad Bridge is one of two Mill City bridges that will be repaired and renovated with a DOT grant award that CFM helped to secure on behalf of Marion County. It was just one of several CFM Federal Affairs Team successes for its clients.

The Mill City Historic Railroad Bridge is one of two Mill City bridges that will be repaired and renovated with a DOT grant award that CFM helped to secure on behalf of Marion County. It was just one of several CFM Federal Affairs Team successes for its clients.

It’s been a productive month for CFM’s federal affairs team that included landing $15 million in federal grants for Oregon clients, freeing up funds for local law enforcement patrols and $400 million for bus replacements and bus facilities in the omnibus spending package. CFM maintains a full-time Washington, DC presence and represents mostly Pacific Northwest clients.

Mill City won a highly competitive $8.1 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant to repair and renovate the North Santiam River Bridge, a critical component of the Mill City Downtown Restoration and Revitalization Project. It was the only TIGER grant awarded in Oregon and just one of 41 granted nationwide.

TIGER grant applications require exhaustingly complex 30-page applications with benefit cost analysis and a variety of technical and narrative requirements. These applications can be daunting for small communities, which is where CFM entered the picture on behalf of Marion County. 

“In the post-earmark era in Congress, federal grant applications are the only way for many communities to secure funding for infrastructure projects,” explains CFM’s Michael Skipper. “We apply our experience in writing grants and add advocacy to help our clients compete successfully.”

Marion County Commissioner Kevin Cameron said, “This project is a great opportunity not only for Mill City, but the entire region.”

CFM efforts also contributed to capturing $6.5 million for two Oregon transit agencies from the extremely competitive federal Bus and Bus Facility grant program administered by the Federal Transit Administration. Salem-Keizer Transit will be able to purchase six replacement buses for its fleet and Rogue Valley Transit District will buy seven replacement buses and create a Transit Signal Priority system to enhance bus operation efficiency.

"This funding will help ensure we meet our community's evolving needs for mobility and connectivity," said Robert Krebs, president of the Salem Area Mass Transit District's Board of Directors.

“CFM has a demonstrated history of success in pursuing funding from this program, securing a total of five awards for its three transit clients in the last two rounds,” says CFM’s Kirby Garrett.

Representing The Bus Coalition, CFM and its Capitol Hill champions lobbied successfully for an additional $400 million in FY 2018 for federal bus formula and grant funding programs, including $161 million for replacement bus and bus facility (BBF) grants.

“The current BBF round is oversubscribed by 10 to 1, with $2.5 billion in requests for $227 million in available funding,” says CFM’s Joel Rubin. “This lack of federal funding has been steadily eroding the state of good repair of the nation’s bus fleet and supporting facilities. Between 2009 and 2016, the number of transit buses operating past their 12-year useful increased nearly 40 percent and the number of buses operating more than 15 years increased by a staggering 92 percent.”

Perhaps the biggest rabbit extraction from the hat managed by CFM was securing a technical correction in the omnibus spending package that will allow Marion County to use $500,000 in available federal funds for law enforcement patrols and emergency response.

The correction, which CFM urged on behalf of Marion County, was necessary after the Government Accountability Office issued a report in 2012 strictly limiting expenditures under Secure Rural Schools Title III provisions. Prior to that, the County was allowed to use funding from Title III to patrol on US Forest Service land.

“This was a hard battle and, frankly, a pleasant surprise,” Rubin said. “The Oregon congressional delegation deserves a lot of credit for seeking a legislative solution that will help struggling rural Oregon communities.”



Skipper Joins CFM Federal Affairs Team

Michael Skipper will join the CFM Federal Affairs team after working with the firm’s state affairs team during the 2015 and 2016 Oregon legislative sessions and assisting on political campaigns in Corvallis and Sherwood.

A political science graduate of Oregon State University, Skipper will assume the role of CFM Federal Affairs Associate.

"Michael's broad understanding of the issues facing the Pacific Northwest, ability to handle complex assignments and record of accomplishment in Salem makes him a perfect fit for the CFM D.C. team,” says Joel Rubin, CFM Federal Affairs Partner. "Having someone who understands the legislative process at the state level will integrate nicely into our comprehensive service model.” 

Skipper assisted the CFM State Affairs team with client, legislator and committee relations, monitored relevant legislation and provided general support. He brings solid communication, research and organizational skills to his new post.

“I’m looking forward to working in Washington, D.C., which has been a goal of mine,” Skipper says. “I’m delighted to continue my association with CFM in this new position.”

Skipper already has a working familiarity with some of CFM’s federal clients, which the firm represents at both the federal and state levels.

For fun, Skipper enjoys hitting the links, traveling, reading and spending time with family and friends. He is an avid sports fan who can routinely be found at any Trail Blazer or Beaver football, basketball and baseball games.

Skipper can be reached at

Rubin Becomes CFM Partner

Joel Rubin, left, with Tigard Mayor John Cook, right, discusses federal items highlighted at a recent Conference of Mayors event in Washington, D.C. Rubin, who leads CFM’s federal affairs team, just became the firm’s newest partner.

Joel Rubin, left, with Tigard Mayor John Cook, right, discusses federal items highlighted at a recent Conference of Mayors event in Washington, D.C. Rubin, who leads CFM’s federal affairs team, just became the firm’s newest partner.

Joel Rubin, who joined CFM Strategic Communications nearly 10 years ago and now leads the firm’s federal affairs office in Washington, DC, has become its newest shareholder.

“I’m pleased my work for clients has translated into a solid practice area for CFM,” Rubin says.

Rubin grew up in the Washington, DC area, but worked for five years as Legislative Director to former Washington Congressman Brian Baird, which gave him a taste of the Pacific Northwest. “It was all new and I loved it,” Rubin says. “Maryland is my home, but the Pacific Northwest is my second home."

After he left Capitol Hill, Rubin worked as a lobbyist for a D.C.-based firm. When given the chance to join CFM and work with Pacific Northwest clients, he jumped at the opportunity. "The Northwest is blessed with folks who work well together and try to solve problems. I was excited to rejoin my friends and colleagues to continue the work I started for Congressman Baird."

Rubin’s areas of expertise include appropriations, transportation, energy, defense, tax, trade, grants and local government issues.

“Joel has broad experience, which he applies in innovative and creative ways,” says CFM Partner Dan Jarman who recruited Rubin in 2006. “Others may throw up their hands in a tough situation, Joel digs in and finds a path to success.”

A graduate of Frostburg State University, where he majored in accounting with a minor in political science, Rubin and his wife, Sarah, have two children. When not at the office or visiting clients, Rubin can be found on the diamond with his 2015 championship men's baseball team or a dive karaoke bar belting out some REO Speedwagon.

CFM now has five active partners. Co-founder and partner Dave Fiskum retired in 2015. Rubin officially became a CFM partner on January 1.

New CFM Expert Section

The CFM website now sports a new expert section showcasing the expertise of individual staff members.

"You can read our bio and blogs, but still not know on what subjects we're experts," explained CFM President Gary Conkling. "This section is organized to make that recognition easy."

The expert section offers a convenient package of staffer background, expertise, recent media mentions and selected blog posts.

"It is designed to help news media find a credible source for their stories," Conkling said. "But it also is for clients and prospective clients who want to know more about our team members."

"We intend to keep the section updated," says CFM Digital Specialist Hannah Smith, who designed the expert section and is featured herself. "As we develop new areas of expertise, we will add those."

"And we will share the passionate hobbies and avocations of our team members," Smith adds.