There’s been what the Fed thought would happen in residential real estate, and then there’s been the Mid-Valley housing market, which has remained hotter than expected.
In the last 90 days, Corvallis had 72 homes sales, there’s currently 52 homes under contract, and 47 active listings. Albany saw 140 homes sold in the same three month period, with 88 currently under contract, and 48 active listings. Similarly, Lebanon has sold 57 homes, with 41 under contract, and 55 active listings.
Depending on which of many sources you go with, a stable real estate market has between four and six months of inventory available – Corvallis currently has 1.94 months on hand. In Albany it’s all the way down to 0.93 months. and Lebanon has the most inventory right now, but it’s still only 2.89 months worth.
Samantha Alley of RE/Max Integrity said there’s usually some increased sales during Spring, but that’s far from the only factor driving the current surge in activity.
“The recent uptick in the real estate market in Corvallis, Albany, and Lebanon may be due to a combination of factors. Mortgage interest rates have been fairly volatile with some highs and lows, but settling out in the low 6’s at the end of March. This makes homeownership more affordable than a few months ago, leading to increased demand for homes,” said Alley, “The tight inventory of available homes has also contributed to the current state of the market, with properties selling relatively quickly and often for at or above asking price. Overall, these factors have led to a competitive market, where buyers need to act quickly to secure a property.”
That said, Alley also cautions it’s not a free-for-all for sellers either, homes in poor condition need to be priced accordingly.
Alley also notes that lenders have adjusted their programs and expanded the types of properties they lend on. For instance, it’s easier than in the past to finance condos or older manufactured homes and homes in communities with leased land. Also, some lenders are broadening their approval criteria and offering loans with lower down payments.
However, Alley notes, ” These adjustments in lending practices have opened up more opportunities for buyers to enter the market and secure their dream home. But, they do come with a price tag, of higher interest and more fees.”
February Employment Numbers Released: The state continues to release employment numbers later than they used to – and we’ll see if they get more timely after the current legislative session ends.
Anyhow, Benton County’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3.7% in February, unchanged from its revised rate of 3.7% in January. Oregon’s statewide unemployment rate in February was 4.7%, down slightly from its revised January rate of 4.8%.
Benton County’s employment gains in February were more than normal; total nonfarm employment increased by 1,000 jobs, when an employment increase of 770 jobs would be expected. As a result, seasonally adjusted employment increased 230 jobs between January and February. Seasonally adjusted total nonfarm employment is now up 2.6% from the level in February 2020, 1,110 jobs above its pre-pandemic level.
Over the past year Benton County’s seasonally adjusted total nonfarm employment is up 2,170 jobs or 5.1%.
The private sector overall added 280 jobs over the month. Trade, transportation, and utilities added 180 jobs. Leisure and hospitality added 40 jobs in February. The public sector added 720 jobs in February. Federal government added 20 jobs. Local government education employment added 710 in February.
What’s a GROTTHUSS, and What Did It Revolutionize: A spinout company from Oregon State University had what can only be described as a YEEHAW breakthrough moment – and it means storing energy from renewable sources can be done far more sustainably and safely, and potentially, with less cost.
The company is GROTTHUSS INC. They’ve worked in collaboration with both HP and the university.
Here’s what happened: Scientists led by an Oregon State University researcher developed a new electrolyte that raises the efficiency of the zinc metal anode in zinc batteries to nearly 100%, a breakthrough on the way to an alternative to lithium-ion batteries for large-scale energy storage.
The research is part of an ongoing global quest for new battery chemistries able to store renewable solar and wind energy on the electric grid for use when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.
Xiulei “David” Ji of the OSU College of Science and his collaborators reported their findings in Nature Sustainability.
“The breakthrough represents a significant advancement toward making zinc metal batteries more accessible to consumers,” Ji said. “These batteries are essential for the installation of additional solar and wind farms. In addition, they offer a secure and efficient solution for home energy storage, as well as energy storage modules for communities that are vulnerable to natural disasters.”
A battery stores electricity in the form of chemical energy and through reactions converts it to electrical energy. There are many different types of batteries, but most of them work the same basic way and contain the same basic components.
Every battery has two electrodes – the anode, from which electrons flow out into an external circuit, and the cathode, which acquires electrons from the external circuit – and the electrolyte, the chemical medium that separates the electrodes and allows the flow of ions between them.
Relying on a metal that’s safe and abundant, zinc-based batteries are energy dense and seen as a possible alternative for grid energy storage to widely used lithium-ion batteries, whose production relies on shrinking supplies of rare metals such as cobalt and nickel. Cobalt and nickel are also toxic and can contaminate ecosystems and water sources if they leach out of landfills.
Additionally, electrolytes in lithium-ion batteries are commonly dissolved in flammable organic solvents that often decompose at high operation voltages. Other safety concerns include dendrites, which resemble tiny trees growing inside a battery. They can pierce the separator like thistles growing through cracks in a driveway, leading to unwanted and sometimes unsafe chemical reactions.
“Zinc metal batteries are one of the leading candidate technologies for large-scale energy storage,” Ji said. “Our new hybrid electrolyte uses water and an ordinary battery solvent, which is non-flammable, cost-effective and of low environmental impact. The electrolyte is made of a dissolved mixture of inexpensive chloride salts, with the primary one being zinc chloride.”
The cost of electricity delivered by a storage facility consisting of zinc batteries can only be competitive with fossil-fuel-produced electricity if the battery has a long cycle life of thousands of cycles, Ji said. To date, however, cycle life has been limited by the poor reversibility performance of the zinc anode.
During charging, Ji explains, zinc cations in the electrolyte gain electrons and get plated on the anode surface. During discharge, the plated anode gives up electrons for the workload by being dissolved into the electrolyte.
“This zinc plating and dissolution process is often woefully irreversible,” Ji said. “Namely, some electrons used in plating cannot be recouped during discharge. This is a problem in an area known as Coulombic efficiency.”
Coulombic efficiency, or CE, is a measure of how well electrons are transferred in batteries, the ratio of the total charge extracted from the battery to the charge put in the over a full cycle. Lithium-ion batteries can have a CE in excess of 99%.
The new electrolyte developed by Ji and collaborators including scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Penn State and the University of California, Riverside, enabled a CE of 99.95%.
“The primary challenge with zinc batteries is that zinc reacts with water in the electrolyte to generate hydrogen gas in what is called a hydrogen evolution reaction,” Ji said. “This parasitic reaction causes a short cycle life and is also a potential safety hazard.”
The new electrolyte, however, restricts water’s reactivity and nearly shuts down the hydrogen evolution reaction by forming a “passivation layer” on the surface of the anode. A similar passivation layer is what enabled the initial commercialization of lithium-ion batteries in the 1990s.
Ji credits OSU chemistry colleague Chong Fang for uncovering the electrolyte’s atomic structure by using femtosecond Raman spectroscopy and Alex Greaney at UC Riverside for determining the passivation mechanism.
“Also, it is worth noting that the efficiency we measured is under harsh conditions that do not mask any damage caused by the hydrogen evolution reaction,” Ji added. “The breakthrough reported here heralds the near-future commercialization of the zinc metal batteries for large-scale grid storage.”
OSU’s Kyriakos Stylianou also took part in this research, which was supported by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.
And now, your business events calendar…
Real Estate Broker Pre-License Class: Have you been thinking about a career as a real estate agent? This class is the first step. An accelerated pre-license hybrid weekly class, self-study, and a 9-5 pre-test cram session on Saturday, June 10th will get you ready for the Oregon Real Estate Broker’s License Exam. You will have to attend all class sessions through Zoom or in person – much of the self-study portion of the class is online. The class is offered by the Small Business Development Center at Linn-Benton Community College.
The course contains 11 sessions, the fee is $695. First session runs from 6 to 9 pm, Tuesday, April 4, and the sessions conclude Saturday, June 10. Class meets at Coldwell Banker Valley Broker’s North Albany Branch. Click here to register.
How to Negotiate Your Salary: Interactive session for tips on how to negotiate your offer after landing a job. Presented by Vamos OSU, an alumni network for all graduates and friends who identify with and support OSU’s Latinx and Chicanx communities. Ask Alumni is an opportunity to meet OSU alumni who have been where you currently are, ask questions and learn from their experiences.
Hybrid event, in-person or online. Wednesday, April 5, from 5 to 6 pm, at the CH2M Hill Alumni Center, 725 SW 26th Street, Corvallis. Click here for more info or two register for online attendance.
OSU Non-Profit & Public Service Fair: The March 1 date was postponed due to inclement weather – the new tentative date is April 11. Explore service. Better the world. Discover your passion.
Meet representatives from over 50 nonprofit and local government organizations representing a wide variety of fields who are seeking OSU volunteers, interns, and employees. The 17th annual Non-Profit and Public Service Fair offers the chance to network with people who share your interests and passions and learn more about the many opportunities available in the nonprofit field. The entire OSU community, including alumni, and the public are encouraged to attend this event!
Tuesday, April 11, from 11 am to 3 pm, at the Memorial Union Building (MU), Ballroom, 2501 SW Jefferson Way, Corvallis. Register here.
Property Manager Pre-License: If you love problem solving, working with people and multitasking, then this in-demand property management class is for you. This course prepares you for the State of Oregon Property Manager License Exam and covers the role of property managers, tenant relations, fair housing, lease agreements, and more. You must attend all class sessions through Zoom and have online access to complete the self-study portion of this course.
$600 fee. Offered through Zoom video conferencing. Seven sessions staring Tuesday, April 11, 6 to 8 pm. Click here for more information and to register.
Going Into Business Class: In just one session, you’ll get all the basic information you will need to begin planning your successful business. Rules, regulations, financing, customers, markets, and feasibility will all be discussed in this free seminar.
Free, this class offered through the Linn-Benton Community College Small Business Development Center. Tuesday, April 11, from 6:30 to 7:20 pm. This seminar is offered through Zoom video conferencing. Click here to register.
Chamber of Commerce Success Events Series: Third in a series three standalone classes, so you won’t have needed to have attended the prior classes to benefit from this last one – April 12 brings a class focused on building a conscious company culture. The fee is $110.
Class will be at the Chamber of Commerce office, 11:30 am to 1:30 pm. This is a Chamber member event, click here to register.
Business After Hours: Corvallis Chamber of Commerce event with a new host every time, in this instance, Knife River Training Center in Albany. Wednesday, April 19, from 5 to 7 pm. Preregister admission is $15 for members, and $20 for non-members. Add $5 if you’re paying at the door.
Knife River Training Center is at 35973 Kennel Rd SE, Albany. Click here to register.
Grad School for Biz: This virtual session introduces the Graduate Business Programs at Oregon State University. The online session we will cover graduate program options in the College of Business, including the MBA, Master’s, and Graduate Certificates programs. We will also introduce the curriculum, program tracks, admission and financial aid, and what sets Oregon State apart from other programs. Oregon State University offers graduate business programs in Portland, Corvallis, and online.
- Wednesday, April 19 from 12 to 1 pm, click here to register.
- Wednesday, April 19 from 5:30 to 6:30 pm, click here to register.
Women in Business Luncheon: Leah Bayles’ talk will be titled Grow with it! Soulful Strategies to Shift “Oh No!” to “Yes, I can!”
Bayles is a holistic life coach, transformational speaker and podcast host. She seeks to empowers big-hearted, high achievers to create the life and the impact they love – without wearing themselves out. Her career in holistic wellness has included positions as Heartspring Mind-body Therapist, SHS Employee Wellness Coordinator and Integrative Yoga Therapy program director.
Bayles will cover:
- 5 common beliefs about life’s challenges that may be limiting your health, happiness and success.
- The #1 thing you need to know to instantly transform stress into productive energy.
- Why positive thinking can become a trap – plus how to escape it so you can expand into possibility thinking.
12 to 1 pm, Thursday, Apr. 20 at Courtyard Marriott in Corvallis, 400 SW 1st Street. Click here to register.