PORTLAND, Ore. -- Goodwill Industries of the Columbia Willamette started on a remarkable trajectory of growth more than 30 years ago.

The organization is one of 160 Goodwill groups around the country. Most people think it’s one big national company but it’s not.

And the local Goodwill stands out from the pack.

“In 1985 before our current CEO started, the revenue generation was $6.1 million and we served 244 individuals," said John Hannam, Assistant Director of Operations.

In 2016, the numbers were a bit higher.

“We had revenues in excess of $169 million,” said Hannam. “And from those revenues we served over 30,000 people,” he added.

Those served got free help with job skills, job placement, English language skills and Microsoft software skills.

The growth happened with a decision to get away from renting property and facilities and to begin buying them instead.

Now Goodwill Industries of the Columbia Willamette owns 40 properties and rents or leases 11.

“It really comes down to a putting the strategy in place and following that strategy,” said Hannam.
“Sure there's going to be course adjustments along the way, given things that happen in the market, whether there's a recession or a tax change or implication. But really it comes down to being disciplined to the strategy we put in place in 1985 when our current CEO got here and seeing that through to today."

That CEO, Michael Miller, was the target of some criticism last year when it was revealed he was paid $800,000 dollars in 2014. His income last year totaled $655,000 dollars.

Columbia-Willamette Goodwill’s top lawyer issued a statement saying that Miller does not set his own pay and that his income reflects the outcomes he’s achieved.

The results employ 28,00 people. Carlos Purdy is one of them.

He's worked at the Goodwill superstore in Southeast Portland for three years and is full of energy.

“I really enjoy my job. I love the customers and when we go, when we go up there and greet regular customers and new ones and it’s just a good thing,” he said.

Goodwill has a historic reputation of employing those with mental disabilities but that's not the reality today.

People who work there often do have barriers to jobs but those could be age, health, physical challenges, language skills or mental disabilities.

And some like Jessica Stenson just like working here. She's a supervisor who started at Goodwill when the retail store she used to work for folded.

“I’ve been here ever since and it’s been 9 years,” she said.

The Columbia Willamette Goodwill is number one in the country among Goodwill stores for revenues and donations. It’s a place it’s held for 25 years.