Wonks R Us

Where Public Policy and Small Business Meet

The Little Engine That Might

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.

In community,

Eva and David

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16 responses to “The Little Engine That Might

  1. Techwraith May 23, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    Thanks for the updates! I’m glad that we could, at the very least, help you two see a light at the end of the tunnel. You two have done so much for the community, Thanks you so much! 🙂

  2. Techwraith May 23, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Thought I should keep an eye on the comments here, but forgot to click the notify me button… Don’t mind me…

  3. Faddah Yuetsu Wolf May 23, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    eva – so here’s an idea. hold on to all the donations and such, and turn cube space into a collective. you and david would manage and, because of the sheer amount of money, credit & sweat equity you put in, be the leading share holders. but everyone else who contributed can be made similar shareholders, following the model of places like people’s co-op (http://peoples.coop). people can buy into it up to a certain amount of shares. a coop board could be developed and elected and we, the community, would have a stake in keeping one of our favorite tech places running and solvent. just an idea.

  4. Alex Williams May 23, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    The support you are receiving comes from your own generosity to the community. Thank you for making CubeSpace such an anchor for people like myself who know they will be right at home when they visit your space. Thanks for the update.

  5. Pete Forsyth May 23, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    Agree with everything said above, especially the part about YOUR OWN generosity. If you want to explore the coop model, be sure to talk to Rory.

  6. PAgent May 23, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    “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.”

    If I may be allowed to brutally mix metaphors, this amounts to beating a dead horse that’s already left the barn.

    If they were interested in not being portrayed in a bad light, they should have started working WITH you months ago. If your business model includes inflexibility in evictions and foreclosures, bad press necessarily comes with the job. To ask that you now try to portray them in a positive light, after they’ve been shamed into action, is another example of corporate hubris.

    My advice to U.S. Bank: Don’t pick fights with people who buy pixels wholesale, take your well-deserved lumps with grace, and promise to do better next time. Any other course will make you look worse than you already do.

    • Joan Mershon May 23, 2009 at 4:38 pm

      PAgent – At least they learned from Amazon’s “How to Ignore Social Media, Damage Your Reputation and Lose Customers” demonstration project earlier this year. Got to give them credit for that, right?

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  9. Chris F May 24, 2009 at 11:26 am

    I don’t want my donation back. It was a token gesture compared to the value CubeSpace has provided me. I hope Eva and David can get a breather. A big breather. There’s a successful business model that will emerge from this and lots of people to assist.

  10. Pingback: CubeSpace’s Saga « Rabbi David Kominsky

  11. Rory Bowman May 24, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    There is a good reason that shame, pain and mockery have traditionally been such common tools across cultures and societies. “Guitar George knows all the chords,” and a good technician has many, many tools. Yay, you!

  12. Eve May 24, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    I am encouraged by the outpouring of support in such a short period of time. People WANT corporations that don’t act like assholes, that serve their community. There is a hunger and need for that in America, I think.

  13. Pingback: Save CubeSpace: Rounding up the conversations while we wait for more details | Silicon Florist

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