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July 8, 2009

‘The thirteenth year of my five-year plan:’ David Gold ’84 Tried Many Paths Before Finding his Passion

This is the second in a series of stories profiling Oregon Law alumni whose class reunions occur this fall.

Not everyone who has a law degree necessarily becomes a lawyer. For David Gold ’84, his time at Oregon Law was just one of the many paths he took to realizing his true passion — entrepreneurship.

The highly successful Portland-based commercial real estate owner often describes realizing his desire to acquire real estate during what he calls, “the thirteenth year of my five-year plan.” That is when David sold his business, Great Western Ink, and realized that real estate had piqued his interest all along.

David, a Los Angeles native who studied government and was president of his housing and dining co-op at Oberlin College in Ohio, didn’t head to law school right away. After starting his own graphic supply company in Los Angeles, which he sold to his partners after two very successful years, David moved to Washington, D.C., to work for a lobbying group focused on saving the National Co-op Bank.

David eventually made his way to Boulder, Colorado, and then to Eugene.

“I had heard a lot about Eugene while I was in Boulder and remembered visiting there when I was a kid,” David recalls. “I felt really drawn to the environment of the Pacific Northwest.”

David says Oregon Law’s Environmental and Indian Law programs appealed to him at the time and he thought Public Interest Law might be his calling. However, David ended up practicing business law for Portland’s Lindsay, Hart, Neil & Weigler LLP, for two-and-a-half years before leaving to run for state representative in 1988.

“The realization came to me on my way back from a Mexican vacation,” he says. “I remember asking myself why I was ‘paying my dues’ as an associate when I really wasn’t interested in the end game. So, I went to work the next day and gave notice.”

It seemed neither law nor government were in the cards for David, so he tried his hand at business, purchasing Portland-based Great Western Ink, a company he characterizes as “circling the toilet bowl” at the time.

“My idea was that I could add value to a struggling business.”

That is just what he did. Knowing next to nothing about the industry, David dove in and took the company from three employees doing $120,000 per year, to 22 employees doing more than $2.5 million per year.

Since selling Great Western Ink and embarking on his career in real estate, David has reaped the rewards of great success. In June he received a U.S. Patent for a new green roofing technology that incorporates used carpet into the roof’s design. He is considering starting another business to develop, cultivate, and distribute his product.

“We currently have more than 7,000 square feet of green roofing in Portland,” David proudly adds.

In addition to sustainable buildings, David’s other focus is on the arts. He is known around Portland as an artist-friendly developer — another passion David says he did not discover until about 10 years ago when he began developing spaces for up-and-coming artists and galleries.

“I try to figure out ways artists can prosper, rather than just turning a profit for myself,” he explains. “The most important aspect is cultivating a creative community. Our two artist’s buildings have over 150 creative tenants”

And just because a career in law never panned out for David doesn’t mean he didn’t enjoy his time at law school or use his law education on a daily basis.

“I remember being in law school and studying on the weekends with friends and then heading to Cougar Hot Springs late at night,” says David, whose favorite class was Torts with Professor Dom Vetri.

“My law education has been invaluable in business and in real estate,” he notes. “If for no other reason than that I have the confidence to make decisions with some understanding of the legal ramifications.”

Currently, David is a part of the Uwajimaya development project, which is looking into opening one of the popular Seattle-based Asian supermarket stores in the Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood of Portland near the University of Oregon’s White Stag Building. In addition to the grocery store, the development would also include 140 units of affordable housing, a Chinese restaurant, and micro retailers (a concept that David observed while traveling with his family in Lima, Peru).

Even with all of these successes, David maintains his proudest accomplishment is his family ’“ his wife, son, and daughter.

“My son will be starting college next year,” he says. “So, this is a very exciting time for us as he’s planning his future.”

Related Link:

Oregon Law Reunions 2009

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