Anyone who has read this blog knows that I have significant issues with corporate executives’ ignorance of the implications of their actions on their employees and communities they serve. My patience is shortest with the financial institutions whose greed led to the collapse of the worldwide economy. I still wax poetic about the days when a family or a business could go to their local bank branch, and their credit was assessed based both on their financial situation as well as their social capital. Historically, default rates drop significantly when social capital is factored in to underwriting decisions.
Obviously I was naive, but when we, CubeSpace, started trying to negotiate with our landlord, US Bank, in August 2008, I had assumed that since they had accepted TARP money, they would show some flexibility to their tenants who were also being impacted by the economic downturn. Instead, they turned a deaf ear to our repeated requests for negotiation for 10 months before threatening us with eviction.
From the outset, our letters to US Bank included offers to use our personal and professional networks to publicly thank US Bank for their cooperation by directing business and good will their way. We once again reiterated our community involvement in what we thought was a last-ditch effort plea for mercy. That was when you all, members of the CubeSpace community, both near and far, proved that social capital remains a force to be reckoned with.
Your unexpected, massive and much appreciated (there really are just not words to tell you how appreciated) response to what I had intended as a farewell post changed the game completely. Not only did US Bank feel the pressure to respond to our letter, but they did so with somewhat reasonable offers. We believe that you, our community, are the ones to thank because of this little paragraph they included in their response:
US Bank does not view your comments regarding issues of public opinion and the Portland business community as productive. Please focus any future correspondence and negotiations on items that will bring the parties to an agreeable resolution.
No matter what comes next or how this story unfolds, you should all pat each other on the backs and raise a toast to yourselves for being a David to their Goliath and using Twitter as your slingshot.
We have received a truly overwhelming number of offers of cash, advice, support, meals and even a bakesale organized by a much beloved community member who is ten years old. We have also been asked some very appropriate questions that we are struggling to answer. Questions like:
- How much money do we need to make a difference?
- How will we revise our business model to make sure we don’t end up back in this same situation a year from now?
- Would we consider moving to a small space?
- I am short on cash, what can I offer that will be of help?
The short answer is that we are struggling to answer those questions ourselves. David and I are emotionally drained. Since Tuesday, we have been on an emotional rollercoaster where we were facing a Sophie’s Choice where either option led to certain corporate and personal bankruptcy, and then experiencing an emotionally overwhelming loving and supporting response from you, our community, and being able now to visualize a light at the end of the tunnel.
CubeSpace’s survivability is obviously incredibly important to the community, and we are convening a meeting tomorrow (Sunday) to discuss legal, business and community implications of the two US Bank offers on the table. We appreciate your collective desire to know what, when and how right now. We are there with you. But please, bear with us as we take the time to review our options and make the decision that is best for all of us.
For those of you who have been hesitating to make a donation without more clarity from us, I understand and agree with your concern. We have not cashed any checks or deposited any cash pending our decision. If we decide CubeSpace will not make it, we will return all cash and destroy all checks. This includes any donations made through the savecubespacepdx.com PayPal account. We know many of the donations have come from unemployed folks who really cannot afford to give anything. If we are able to sustain CubeSpace, in some shape or form, we will gratefully accept what we know were heartfelt gifts. If we cannot keep CubeSpace going, we will return all contributions but retain the incredible support and love in which the gifts were given.
Things are going very fast and we will do out best to keep the community updated throughout the weekend.
Eva and David