PSU grad bids for U.S. congressional seat

In 1991, Portland State business graduate Mike Erickson was working for Airborne Express. Fifteen years later he is running one of Inc. Magazine’s top 500 fastest growing companies, AFMS.

The consulting firm, with clients like Fred Meyer, Quicksilver and Honda, now has 27 employees and eight offices across the country, and has grown tremendously from the self-run business Erickson started in 1992.

“We’ve gone from nothing to over $13 million in revenues and we’re growing faster,” he said of his firm, which advises companies on how to get better deals on shipping from carriers like UPS and FedEx. “I started the company out of my house, with an idea, just a concept. Now it’s the biggest consulting firm in the country in our industry.”

This May, Erickson will be running against eight-year veteran Darlene Hooley for the District 5 Oregon Congress seat.

“People say, ‘Mike, are you crazy? Are you sure you really want to do this?’ I think I’ve got the wherewithal, energy and passion to make things happen,” he said.

With his congressional bid, Erickson hopes to bring back to congress the voice of the average citizen he feels has been left out. He looks to help students fight for financial aid money as well.

Erickson hopes his candidacy will help motivate PSU students to get involved around campus, particularly with things like student government. He said his time as president increased his awareness of others’ needs and his compassion for them.

It has been a long but successful road for the PSU alumnus, who spends more than two weeks a month traveling the country speaking from his expertise.

After transferring from the University of Washington, the Seattle native took a year off sports due to NCAA regulations, and then joined the Vikings football team as the starting place kicker and punter.

Erickson, who mentioned he is still ranked the number nine leading scorer on the football team, ran and was elected student body president two years in a row, starting in 1986.

People often characterize this man of achievement as a workaholic, and Erickson cited his college years as helping build that personal mindset.

“I got my business degree in marketing with close to a 3.0 GPA, while playing football and being student body president,” he said, adding that he also worked in the outdoor department of the Tigard Fred Meyer. “I was always keeping busy; working nonstop created a good work ethic. Never give up, work hard.”

These ethics, Erickson said, led to his success in business. He gave slight gratitude to his ability to hit the market with the right idea at the right time, but said having a clear vision of what he wanted, as well as some money to go after his dream, were primary.

“We had a clear vision and hired some of the best people,” he said.

Despite his busy schedule and consistently being on the road, Erickson has been able to give back to PSU, as well as the Portland community. Along with donations to at-risk youth and between five to eight organizations, Erickson spoke for Dr. Lee Buddress’s class in the school of business.

“Mike has been a great asset to business school,” said Buddress, director of the supply and logistics program. “He’s been very supportive and his expertise is greatly appreciated. We’re thankful for everything he has done for this program.”

Erickson said he looks forward to the future of his company and his future as a congressional candidate. He hopes the company will be able to double revenues by next year, and expects to bring between 60 and 80 new companies to the firm by the same time.

Erickson said he continues to work hard and pursue his dreams. Until recently he played for a semi-pro football team, the Oregon Thunderbolts, which he also owns.

Dr. Scott Dawson, one of Erickson’s former professors and the dean of the school of business, said it is always nice seeing PSU alumni be so successful.

“He’s a pretty driven, self confident, entrepreneurial guy,” Dawson said. “We’re really proud of him. He’s done great.”