Norm Eder

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.”



Regional Land-Use System Unravels

This November, Sherwood voters turned down a proposed annexation for a third time. The 104 acres of land were brought into the Portland metro urban growth boundary in 2002. 

This November, Sherwood voters turned down a proposed annexation for a third time. The 104 acres of land were brought into the Portland metro urban growth boundary in 2002. 

Portland's regional land-use policy may be unraveling by the unwillingness of local communities to carry it out, says CFM partner Norm Eder in an op-ed published on page A7 last week in the Portland Tribune.

"Today, the metro area is less the cohesive region planners envisioned," Eder wrote, "and more an ever-expanding network of smaller, often self-defined villages."

"And it's just another irony that many of those who reject the consequences of land-use decisions in their villages," he added, "are the most committed to the system's growth management principles."

Eder's comments came after Sherwood residents defeated for the third time a proposal to annex 104 acres, which were part of a larger parcel added to the Portland metro urban growth boundary in 2002. [CFM Strategic Communications managed the most recent unsuccessful annexation campaign.]

"Whether we're talking about land-use, transportation or economic development, our region faces an existential threat to its way of doing things," Eder said. "We continue onward pretending the ground under our feet has not shifted. We create plan, conduct public process and make decisions that it the letter of the law, but with less and less real meaning in the world as it really exists."

"Ultimately, the Sherwood vote matters," Eder concluded, "because it tells those of us who worry about the region's future that somethings gotta give and soon."

Norm Eder is part of CFM's public affairs team. Eder works extensively with and for local governments, tackling major projects. You can reach him at

Student Boat-Builders Near Finish Line

The 16-foot open day-sailer that eight at-risk youth built this summer as an exercise to learn math and work skills will be finished Friday and, after a little fit and polish, will be launched into the Willamette River October 5. Before then, it will be displayed in Pioneer Square to kick off National Manufacturing Day October 4.

The eight students, only one of whom had completed high school and ranging in age from 17 to 22, showed up 13 weeks ago to a workshop located at 11th and SE Stark in Portland. They found a pile of wood and a keel. None had any experience with woodworking and all had struggled with math in school. None had any clear career plans.

Along the way, one student builder decided to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering and acquired the dean of engineering at Portland State University as her mentor. Another plans to enter a community college welding program. A third reversed his earlier decision to bypass college and will enroll in community college. Two decided to take GED exams after gaining confidence in basic math and geometry, which they used daily in building the boat. Yet another elected to return to regular high school.

"This was a true learning experience," said CFM partner Norm Eder who helped to spearhead and fund the innovative summer work program. "There were some bumps, but the students built a boat, a boat that will sail for years to come. That is a great accomplishment for these young people."

The effort was overseen by Wind & Oar Boat School, which provided the instructors and skill training, and WorkSystems Inc., which provided some of the funding and the students. 

In addition to practical lessons in working with fractions and compound angles, building the boat required the students to learn the value of teamwork. For one thing, the boat was designed by a French naval architect and the plans were rendered in metric, requiring the students to convert every measurement.

Eder, who became a regular visitor and pizza delivery man to the starving student-builders, said, "This is more than a boat. It is a wonderful success story. It has touched the lives of these students and opened the eyes of those who ask for a better skilled workforce about how programs like this can work."

According to Eder, the Southwest Washington Workforce Development Corporation has committed to a Vancouver boat-build later this year. The principal of Madison High School has asked Wind & Oar to do a build at the Northeast Portland school. And WSI plans to fund a new cohort of student-builders next month. The program has attracted sponsors, including Silver Eagle Manufacturing that provided custom marine bronze components for the student-built boat.

At-Risk Youth Build a Boat

Seven to ten students will spend their summer polishing math skills and learning teamwork by building a 16-foot sailboat, the brainchild of CFM Partner Norm Eder and his wife, Sherry, who are advocates of hands-on learning.For most of us, boats are a source of recreation and relaxation. For seven to 10 local youngsters, building a 16-foot sailboat will be an opportunity to polish their math and work skills this summer.

CFM Partner Norm Eder and his wife, Sherry, were the spark plugs behind a partnership between Worksystems, Inc. and the Wind & Oar Boat School to create a hands-on learning opportunity for at-risk youth.

The young boat builders got to work this week after learning about shop safety, materials and tools. They were assigned to read the plans for the boat, which was designed by famous French naval architect Francois Vivier. It will take them 10 weeks from laying the keel to the final paint job, all under the watchful eyes of two master boat builders.

Eder, who worked at the Oregon Graduate Institute before joining CFM, has been a long-time advocate for hands-on learning and played a role in OGI's start-up of Saturday Academy. One of his current clients is the Manufacturing 21 Coalition, which has engaged in numerous efforts to link industry, university research and skilled worker training. Sherry has been a classroom teacher for 20 years and now guides an early childhood Head Start program for Neighborhood House in SW Portland.

The idea for the innovative summer program came last fall after Eder joined the Wind & Oar Boat School board. He lined up the partnership with the workforce board that covers Multnomah and Washington counties, which supplied the youngsters, and the nonprofit school, which will provide instructional training. Worksystems Inc. is funding the educational costs, as well as providing stipends for the student boat smiths.

The youngsters will work 3.5 hours per day, five days a week. In addition to polishing their math skills (nothing on a boat is built without mathematical calculation), program participants will learn the importance of teamwork, time management and construction planning. They also will learn different methods of traditional small craft construction and how small craft design and construction technologies evolved to meet the practical needs of those who venture onto rivers and oceans.

"I've built my own wooden boat that I sail and it gave me great satisfaction," Eder says. "It just seemed to me this could provide equal or greater value to students over a summer."

One of the first challenges the students faced was converting metric measurements to more familiar values as they began attaching the first bulkheads to the keel. They also will learn about sustainable practices, durable woods and sail-making.



Eder Named Chair of Westside Economic Alliance

CFM Partner Norm EderOne of Oregon’s most influential business groups, the Westside Economic Alliance (WEA) has elected CFM Partner Norm Eder to serve as president and board chair for 2012. WEA advocates for a healthy economic environment on the westside of the Portland metropolitan region.

A partner since he joined the firm in 1998, Eder helps lead CFM’s Public Affairs practice. He specializes in issues management, assisting organizations to work through complex challenges.

“The Alliance has been an important stage for launching regional economic development programs, as well as a forum for policy makers to voice their views,” says Eder. “It will be a more significant force as we work our way out of this economic downturn.”

Adds CFM President Gary Conkling, a longtime observer of Washington County: “Norm is a terrific choice for the job. He possesses a rare blend of vision, leadership and problem solving, which he exhibits in his work for CFM’s clients.”

Eder replaces Mike Grant, a vice president of Kaiser Permanente, who was reassigned to a post in Los Angeles. In addition, Eder will serve a full 12-month term during the Alliance's 2012 membership year. He brings a wealth of institutional knowledge to his new role, having served on WEA's Board of Directors since the Alliance was formed in 1998. Eder also served on the Board of Directors of Sunset Corridor Association, which later merged with the Tualatin Valley Economic Development Corporation to create WEA.

Photo of Julie Strange at the 2011 Waterfront Blues Festival taken by Eder.

In his spare time, Eder has built a boat and a ukelele while tending an extensive garden that surrounds his Raleigh Hills home and produces a wide range of fruits, vegetables and flowers. Each summer Norm donates his time as the lead photographer for the Waterfront Blues Festival, documenting all performances and creating a rich archive of images.

CFM Partner Exhibits Cape Kiwanda Photo Collection

CFM Partner Norm Eder will be exhibiting 100 images of Oregon’s Cape Kiwanda during March and April at the Stimulus Coffee shop in Pacific City.Norm Eder’s day job is serving as a public affairs adviser for clients of CFM Strategic Communications, where he is a Partner. One of his off-duty passions is photography.

Norm will be exhibiting 100 images of Oregon’s Cape Kiwanda during March and April at the Stimulus Coffee Shop in Pacific City. A Pacific City homeowner, Norm has taken images of the cape during the last year. The title of the exhibit is, A Year of Seeing Cape Kiwanda.

Twenty-five dollars of each sale will be donated to the Pacific City Arts Association to help enrich the cultural life of Pacific City.

Norm captured the cape and its surroundings in every season of the year. He walked, crawled and climbed every inch of the headland with his camera. “I was challenged by the idea of seeing the well-photographed cape with fresh eyes.”

Norm says he has met his goal of creating 100 unique images of the cape. The complete collection of his photographs can be found at: