Skip Frank admits that Meier & Frank is not a business model that would be viable in today’s digital economy, but back in the day, the store was a destination.
“This location is very appropriate for a business school,” he said. “Our business model was successful for well over a century, but that doesn’t mean it is going to function into the next century. I look at this move as an opportunity for educators at the College of Business, because occupying the Meier & Frank building reminds us of the need to appropriately educate our future business leaders to meet the future challenges of a rapidly changing business environment. The successful retail merchandising model that once was Meier & Frank would have difficulty surviving in today’s environment.”
It is decidedly apropos that in the footprint of the iconic department store, the College of Business will focus on executive education, the retail management degree option as well as on the professional development of its hybrid and online learners based in Portland.
Regarding the college's retail management degree, it was first developed as an online option in partnership with Peet's Coffee. The specialty coffee company partnered with OSU to support its employees professional growth, offering tuition reimbursement for up and coming employees. Retail workers from all corners of the country can earn their undergraduate business degree with education and skills specifically tailored to address retail industry needs.
“This new retail management option, though developed for Peet’s, is open to all students,” said Dean Montoya. “And it is especially relevant to Portland’s economic base.”
And Portland’s economic base is showing their interest.
The College of Business has toured Meier & Frank during renovations with numerous companies and groups, including Greater Portland Inc., a cooperative that seeks to drive economic expansion, job creation and business development in Portland and Vancouver. GPI seeks to support and expand businesses in targeted industry clusters, for example, athletic and outdoor apparel and design, software and media and others.
"One of our strengths at the College of Business and OSU is that we are aligned with the Northwest's critical industry sectors," Montoya said. "We can plug in and really add value to the economy by providing a well-trained, well-educated workforce."
Other benefits of the opening in Portland involve community building, for example, a place for the online students to meet face-to-face with faculty, meet with academic advisors and take part in the professional development training. The 40,000 square feet in Meier & Frank will serve as events destination for Beaver alumni and corporate partners, but also as a hub for executive training, and other workshops and courses to prepare the workforce of the future.
“We have an online community of MBA and undergraduate students based in Portland,” Montoya said. “But we also have to supply the current workforce with the skills they need in a rapidly changing digital era. It's not a ‘one and done’ kind of world any more. You are not done once you get one degree because of the accelerating pace of change. You will need more skills to get through your career.”