Economic Development Needs A Facelift

By Senator Rick Metsger (D-Welches).

Last month, I unveiled my vision for a total rebuild of how the state promotes economic development. As Chairman of the Senate Business Committee the past 4 years, it has become apparent that the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department has morphed into a complex maze of red tape while its processes are anything but transparent.

Every session the legislature attempts to “fix” the problem. I believe it is time to rebuild it from the ground up. I have proposed breaking OECDD into two separate entities. Community development, public infrastructure investment, will stand alone. Economic development will be moved into a new Oregon Economic Sustainability Department with a clear mission statement and streamlined processes.

Oregon is uniquely positioned to benefit from the surge in “green” investment. We pride ourselves on sustainable leadership and commitment. Yet nowhere in OECDD’s mission statement is sustainability even mentioned. It is time to put our precious state investment dollars to work alongside our rhetoric.

Investments should be measured by clear and well-researched benchmarks for future economic prosperity. Sustainability should not be just one element of consideration, it should guide the decision making process.

Oregon has a Sustainability Board but it lacks any authority and has a zero budget for investment.

I have proposed overlaying the new Oregon Economic Sustainability Department with governance by the Oregon Sustainability Board. Give it meaning, relevance and the tools to actually guide our state’s future. Oregon will reap the benefits for decades to come.

Comments

  • It's about time (unverified)
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    I think this is long overdue. OECDD is a bureaucratic mess and without focus. The state is moving to a greener philosophy in many areas and it makes sense that economic investment by the state have sustainability as the overarching requirement rather than just a small component of the decision making process.

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    I would suggest that as you rethink the organization of Oregon's economic development programs that significant consideration be given to the economic growth and changes taking place in Asia. Ambassador Holmer just told the Portland City Club that "Possibly the most important economic question in this century is whether or not we get the economic relationship with China right." Former Harvard University President Lawrence Summers said “that growth and change in Asia are the most important things to happen during our lifetimes.” NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote “that when the history of this era is written, the trend that historians will cite as the most significant will not be 9/11 and the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. It will be the rise of China and India.” And NY Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof wrote “The 21st century will belong to Asia, and young Americans need to study Asia, live in it and learn its languages.” So what are Oregon policies regarding this growth in Asia? And how do you think Oregon should respond to the economic opportunites in Asia over the next 75 years? More Mandarin in schools? Attract Asian tourists? Attract Asian investors? More trade missions?

  • Oregon Eyes (unverified)
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    Spoken like a consulting services account manager/salesman--lots of buzzwords to convey the obvious, but no examples cited to support your argument that OECDD should be split. If you are confident that there is excessive waste in the process that does not add value, perhaps you could briefly cite a few examples. Where exactly do you see the repetition of effort, over-production of materials, etc, that ultimately don't add value to the process? To what do you attribute this entropy in the OECDD? Was it a failure of management to keep up with the changing economic environment that allowed this inefficiency to take hold or is it a control problem where special interests have dominated OECDD? As a Democrat you are basically castigating a department that has received much attention from the last two Democratic Oregon governors on the subjects of sustainability and green investment. I see a conclusion, but I don't see much of an argument to support it.

  • rural resident (unverified)
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    I agree that economic development lags in Oregon and that the OECDD is relatively ineffective. However, based on the conditions that cause these things to be true, this seems like a strange approach.

    First, there doesn't seem to be an accepted working definition for "sustainability." In Oregon, it seems to be a synonym for “anti-growth.” It is more of a restraint on economic development than a driving force.

    Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman made this comment about it:

    Sustainability is synonymous with integrating ecology, economics and social justice for long-term global stability and prosperity. It means thinking about our behavior in a bigger context recognizing that our choices have a profound effect on our future so that we can mitigate the negative impacts. A commitment to sustainability is a commitment to creative and responsible action”.

    Aside from the fact that sustainability probably doesn’t mean “thinking about something (if it did, we could think our way to economic supremacy),” it would appear that this rules out anything involving finite resources, anything that doesn’t promote “economic justice” (a somewhat loaded term), and anything that would cause resentment or envy on the part of someone, somewhere. Economic development in Oregon could not include any activity that:

    1. is resource-based (it’s a good thing we didn’t have that restriction decades ago, when logging and fishing allowed us to survive economically);

    2. uses finite resources (we wouldn’t be able to manufacture anything that uses minerals, such as copper, lead, iron, aluminum, etc.);

    3. involves transportation (fossil fuel use certainly isn’t sustainable, according to the sustainability adherents; this would certainly put a crimp in farming.);

    4. based on the state either employing or creating an economic advantage over someone in another state or country;

    5. pays more to our citizens that would be paid to someone, somewhere else (would the Chinese, Koreans, etc., be envious if we made higher wages?); or

    6. doesn’t promote the economic development of those who live in other states or countries.

    It would appear that that rules out just about any economic development proposal that someone is likely to come up with. It is tough enough for a small state like Oregon to promote economic development as it is, without placing unreasonable restrictions on those who want to invest in the state's future -- especially when those limitations are based on vague concepts and buzzwords.

  • Dave Lister (unverified)
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    Attempts by government at economic development too often interfere with free markets and result in uneven playing fields for businesses (e.g. tax incentives for large employers).

    The best things the State of Oregon could do for economic development would be to improve the road infrastructure and reduce the capital gains rate. We also need to reform our tax structure, improve our higher education system and reach some kind of reasonable accomodation on land use.

    If government takes good care of its core responsibilities, economic development will follow naturally.

  • Jonathan (unverified)
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    I'm stick and tired of businesses that come into Oregon just to make a quick buck and don't care about our what will happen to us 5 years later.

    Just think where we could Oregon had been investing in long term businesses like bio-fuels, wave machines, solar panels in the 90's. Oregon would have corned the market on the "green economy" for the next 15 years as the rest of America races to catch up.

    Not to mention the cost of building "green homes" would be so low right now that it would be cost effective for Oregon home builders to install "green feature" into nearly every new home in Oregon. Contractors would be able to charge extra for the cost of the homes in the sort term and home owners would be able save even more money on energy prices in the long term. Oh yeah and would limit our energy use which would help save our plant.

    So Builders make more money, home owners save more money, and we all help save our planet. A true win, win, win.

    I hope Metsger keeps talking about this idea because it is 10 years over due.

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    That's a hell of a lot of strawmen to put in a single argument, ruralresident. Enough start your own feed lot.

    Yes, sustainable development doesn't mean stupid development. If you're in favor of raping the land for short term gain, the benefits of which going to a handful of out of state CEOs and investors, you're really in the wrong party.

    What Democrats want is high-tech/low-impact development, the benefits of which are spread relatively evenly out in the community: native switchgrass farming for the era of declining oil, smart recycling that uses our massive trash heaps as a resource instead of a polluting eyesore, windmills and wave-generator based power plants, early conversion to the electric-transportation based economy of the future.

    None of this means it's done for free. And none of it means Democrats want Americans to have third-world wages. If anything, we're in favor of reducing the third world plutocracy that causes it.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    Is David Lister a Republican? That is usually the party of folks who call for increased government spending and decreased taxes in the same sentence.

  • Opinionated (unverified)
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    Better 10 years late than never to do something about this. I agree with Dave Porter's comments about economic expansion happening in Asia, especially India and China. I don't think teaching mandarin in schools is necessary, but both these countries send thousands of their smartest to the US to study and work. We already have a stalemate in Washington to increase visa quotas so we can attract these workers, and for the first time students from both these countries coming for further / advanced studies fell. What Oregon can do? Invest in education, advanced education. Attract researchers and scientists. We have such high quality of living and so much to offer. I have been in Oregon for nearly 20 years. Moved up from Silicon Valley. I have yet to see the kind of change that is necessary for Oregon to make the kinds of strides that happened in Silicon Valley, Austin, Boston etc primarily because we lose our brightest every to other states.

    I have an opinion

  • Dave Lister (unverified)
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    Tom,

    I'd be happy to see a sales tax pick up any reduction in the capital gains rate. The capital gains rate is a big disincentive to businesses coming or staying in Oregon. I'd prefer a sales tax to the income tax.

    A couple years ago, Brainstorm NW Magazine and the Oregon Community Foundation convened a group of CEO's of both private and public sector concerns to come up with recommendations for increasing Oregon's competitiveness in the global economy. They came up with a seven point declaration which I think is very good. You may be surprised at some of their conclusions:

    Transportation Infrastructure: Oregon must dramatically improve its road and rail service and modernize its port capabilities.

    K-12 Reform: Full support of the bipartisan chalkboard project.

    Tax Reform: Reduce capital gains, move to a broader tax base through a sales tax, reduce reliance on fees.

    Public Pension Reform: Move from defined benefit to defined contribution systems. (That's being done).

    Higher Ed Reform: Grow nationally ranked, top tier universities, departments and programs.

    Land Use Reform: Allow shovel ready industrial sites in desirable areas and permit development on non agricultural land.

    Natural Resources: Make use of our comparative advantage in natural resources.

    That's right. Thirty six Oregon business leaders put their name on a declaration advocating a consumption tax and greater investments in education. And I'll bet a lot of them are R's.

    Full disclosure: I'm an R too, but I think for myself.

    Anyway, I have the entire declaration in a PDF. If anyone would like me to send it to them, send me an email at [email protected]

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    Oh come on, Dave. Oregon has the lowest business tax of the 11 western states. Lower than Idaho and Utah, for crying out loud. Please don't pretend our corporations are overtaxed.

    And please, stop pretending that those "36 business leaders" aren't just whining plutocrats. They want a sales tax for one reason: it shifts the tax burden even further onto the working poor. Good for them. Not good for anyone else.

    What is an impediment to Oregon's salaries is the way we've starved higher education in Oregon. If all your smartest kids go out of state to get an education (because your own schools are literally falling apart), many never return. They fall in love with wherever they are, or just plain fall in love with someone from around there, so when it comes time for them to settle and build a business, they build it there, not here.

    Oregon has precisely one homegrown mega-success story in the last 30 years: Nike, founded by Phil Knight who went to U of O. But that was long ago before our University system was strangled by Sizemore. We're not going to have another like it until we bite the bullet in taxes, and start reinvesting.

    And don't think you can make it up with already established companies moving in. Just like orchard trees, transplants never do quite as well as ones grown from the seed.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    David Lister wrote,

    "I'd be happy to see a sales tax pick up any reduction in the capital gains rate."

    That would be replacing a tax paid primarily by high income folks with one that is clearly regressive, which is very Republican of you and the business leaders who support it as well. Indeed, if there is a real difference between Republicans and Democrats, it is that the latter believe that government should not make it more difficult for working class people to live a decent life.

    "Everybody knows that the dice are loaded Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed Everybody knows that the war is over Everybody knows the good guys lost Everybody knows the fight was fixed The poor stay poor, the rich get rich Thats how it goes Everybody knows"

     Leonard Cohen
    
  • Garlynn -- undergroundscience.blogspot.com (unverified)
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    Steve Maurer wrote:

    What *is* an impediment to Oregon's salaries is the way we've starved higher education in Oregon. If all your smartest kids go out of state to get an education (because your own schools are literally falling apart), many never return. They fall in love with wherever they are, or just plain fall in love with someone from around there, so when it comes time for them to settle and build a business, they build it there, not here.

    Oh, I dunno, I think Oregon's schools, when it comes to higher ed, are actually fairly good. Not top-tier, but certainly not "falling apart." They could use some help...

    ...but the REAL issue is that after students graduate, unless they have a business degree that allows them to create their own employment by starting their own business, they may find it very difficult to find employment in their field, especially career employment (as opposed to temporary work). I know personally at least half a dozen graduates from Oregon schools who are now living in the San Francisco, California Bay Area because that's the place with the jobs -- not Oregon.

    So, I think this proposal to re-create the Oregon Economic Development Department is spot on. Oregon needs to do a better job of creating new jobs, creating green jobs, and retaining the graduates that it does produce from its schools!!!

  • Nick Caleb (unverified)
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    In response to Dave Lister's comment on limiting government involvement in business:

    It's true that government involvement limits the ability of the free market to work (whatever that would look like). However, we live in a world economic system where government subsidies exist on every level in every country despite the best efforts of the supposed free marketers that run global trade. Free marketers are the same people that argue for countervailing subsidies and anti-dumping protections against foreign imports. They just want the subsidy.

    If the democrats/progressives manage to keep momentum there is going to be tons of money for green subsidies and investment in the next few years. Instead of invoking free market arguments, it seems best to put energy behind formulating a policy toward doling that money to business ventures that the state can support. Let's have a rigorous discussion, but I think the free market is a never will/never was state of trade. Plus if we decide that we'll be free marketers in Oregon and everyone else sticks with the same system, guess whose companies lose.

    There may be nothing wrong with an uneven playing field if it's Oregon companies that run environmentally friendly enterprises. It could accomplish the goals progressives like on the policy level. And it beats the current paradigm.

    You can make a moral argument about it, I suppose, citing a Friedmanite notion that restrictions on trade is the immoral part. Again, no one plays that game. And even if we had to weigh interests, I'm thinking that building a sustainable economy so we all don't have to be poisoned to death by harmful chemicals wins out. If anyone can convince me that "the market" has feelings, I might change my tune.

  • Steve Maurer (unverified)
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    Garlynn: Oregon's schools, when it comes to higher ed, are actually fairly good. Not top-tier, but certainly not "falling apart."

    My daughter has already ruled out Oregon State because of the condition of the dorm rooms. UO is getting a better stadium thanks to Phil Knight, but according to many letters to the editor I've read, it's not what's in the worst condition on campus.

    But even ignoring that, there is simply no way to build a top notch faculty when you pay them at just about the bottom of the barrel in terms of salaries. here is a comparison chart that shows just how bad this is. To my mind, it's amazing that they've been able to get the talent they have (truly, quality of life can make up for quite a bit of salary). But there is no way we'll ever have a Nobel Laureate on staff, or anything to attract a top-flight program in any field no matter how obscure.

    I'm sorry, but if you don't have a single program to which you can point and say they play on a national level, you really have a University system that's falling apart.

  • Dave Lister (unverified)
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    To me economic development means creating good jobs for Oregonians. I want the "working poor" to be the "working not-poor". We have a successful economic model just north of the Columbia. World class universities and thriving anchor businesses. They have a sales tax, no income tax and low capital gains rates. Maybe we just ought to copy what they're doing.

  • Garlynn -- undergroundscience.blogspot.com (unverified)
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    Steven said:

    I'm sorry, but if you don't have a single program to which you can point and say they play on a national level, you really have a University system that's falling apart.

    Is that really true? Portland State University has its Urban studies school, which is consistently top-ranked nationally (#3 in the most recent survey). Reed College,which while private, is actually located in Oregon, is consistently ranked as the #1 Liberal Arts college in the country. Lewis & CLark College, last time I checked, has the #1 Environmental Law program in the country.

    But, this goes back to my original point: Where are the jobs for the graduates of these fine schools? Since the topic of this thread is economic development (not the quality of our schools -- that belongs on a separate thread), I think I'm raising a valid point, which I'd like to see addressed. When your daughter graduates, Steven, will she have the opportunity to work in a career in her field in Oregon, or will she need to move to greener pastures to find a career with a salary that properly reflects her education and experience?

    And yes, if she chooses to go into education -- will she be able to find a job in higher education in the State of Oregon that meets the above criteria?

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    Senator Metzger is running for Secretary of State. Further, internal scutiny within the economic department and from outside the economic department with an eye for realignment is on going and has been.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    David,

    A better explanation for Washington's industrial prowess is the preponderance of relatively inexpensive publicly owned electric power providers in that state. Oregon's move to public power has been stymied by the political power of whoever has owned PGE and Pacific Power, the state's largest privately owned utilities. If you map the location of Washington's biggest industrial plants, you will find that most are in areas served by PUDs and municipal power providers.

  • Opinionated (unverified)
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    Garlynn, I think you are really missing the point here. The reason the bay area has jobs and attracts graduates from Oregon is because that whole area has been seeded with high tech entrepreneurs who graduated (and low tech for the matter of fact), from Universities like Stanford and UC Berkeley, where this is tremendous amount of research and opportunity to come up with new ideas. Oregon and its university system comes out very low on this scale. A nationally recognized urban studies program or environmental law program isn't going to seed the local economy with new businesses that can become giants and feed into the system. With no offense but we have a very closed mind in this state about not accepting our short-comings and being defensive vs taking aggressive steps to fix the problem in the educational system at all levels, which has been suffering. I have the fortune of sending my kids to a private school thankfully, and I doubt if they will end up in an Oregon University long term. I have been hearing this parochial BS "we are the best" for a long time. I still fondly remember the anti-californion campaigns of the late 80s. As for business tax in Oregon, is anyone here a small business owner in WA county. I am sure they can vouch for the completely hideous "property tax" we have to pay for furniture, equipment etc that we purchase for our employees.

    When will this state grow up?

    I have a very strong opinion about this!

  • Garlynn -- undergroundscience.blogspot.com (unverified)
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    "Opinionated" wrote:

    Garlynn, I think you are really missing the point here. The reason the bay area has jobs and attracts graduates from Oregon is because that whole area has been seeded with high tech entrepreneurs who graduated (and low tech for the matter of fact), from Universities like Stanford and UC Berkeley, where this is tremendous amount of research and opportunity to come up with new ideas.

    Actually, no, I get it. I understand that Oregon's schools are not, generally speaking, top-ranked, especially its public universities. And I understand the fact that, say, OIT is not in the same league as CalTech or MIT has real implications for the economy.

    However, as I stated in my post, this thread is about the economic development department, not the educational system. While the educational system definitely has room for improvement, this does not give the state license to operate a poorly- run economic development department, which also has a role to play in strengthening the economy.

    I think that this re-organization proposal has merit, which is why I gave those examples. To give another example, one of the folks I know who currently lives in the Bay Area, will soon be moving back to Portland to start a bicycle-industry-related business. This certainly would fall under the "sustainable development" sector, and could possible benefit from the reorganization proposal. Fixing the school system, in this case, will do less to help than fixing the economic development department, to the degree that department is able to help small businesses develop.

    But, I agree, fixing the public university system is critical to the long term economic health of the state, even if it does little for the shorter term health.

  • (Show?)

    In 1900, Portland was bigger than Seattle and San Francisco was larger than Los Angeles. The biggest factor in reversing those relationships was government investment in war-related industries in World War I and World War II, partly tied to superior port facilities.

  • rural resident (unverified)
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    Steve ... I'm not the one defining "sustainability"; just showing where rambling, vague, poorly worded definitions of the concept take us. In fact, the lack of agreement about what the term means is part of the problem with Metzger's proposal. Based on the information provided, there doesn't seem to be anything to grab onto from an operational standpoint.

    If you think we're going to build a booming economy on switch grass farming and recycling, the windmills you mention must be the ones you're tilting at. Yes, if someone wants to come here to be in those businesses, we should encourage and salute them. But we can't limit economic development only to those types of industries. (I found it interesting that you didn't mention biotechnology and bioengineering, which will be two of the biggest growth industries in the years ahead.) We will encourage environmental industry firms – and those in other industries -- more by eliminating some of the oppressive land use restrictions and burdensome business regulation that discourages potential entrepreneurs and drives up costs. It is interesting that you mention wave energy as one of your "sustainable" industries. Apparently, that word hasn't reached many of the Portland-area sustainability gurus; they're fighting the construction of wave generators with great ferocity.

    Garlynn ... Creating new jobs and creating green jobs are not the same. Making the second a prerequisite for the first (as Metzger appears to be trying to do) is the route to economic disaster, not prosperity. The goal of economic development is to create private-sector jobs to broaden the wage and tax base. We shouldn't be providing subsidies; however, we also can't afford to make development so expensive, or place so many restrictions on it, that private capital seeks other venues. There is nothing as unsustainable as a business that doesn’t make a sufficient profit. Oregonians want and need many goods and services that the “sustainability mavens” passionately dislike. Creating the perception that timber products firms, big-box retailers, petroleum companies, ski resort operators, and many others aren’t welcome here doesn’t do anything positive for Oregon’s business image.

    Tom C. ... You’re right about the importance of low cost power. We have several PUDs and municipal power providers in Oregon (e.g., Central Lincoln PUD on the coast). Wouldn’t it make sense to take advantage of this and direct some of our economic development efforts toward these areas? Some of them could sure use it!

  • Garlynn -- undergroundscience.blogspot.com (unverified)
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    rural resident wrote:

    Garlynn ... Creating new jobs and creating green jobs are not the same. Making the second a prerequisite for the first (as Metzger appears to be trying to do) is the route to economic disaster, not prosperity. The goal of economic development is to create private-sector jobs to broaden the wage and tax base. We shouldn't be providing subsidies; however, we also can't afford to make development so expensive, or place so many restrictions on it, that private capital seeks other venues. There is nothing as unsustainable as a business that doesn’t make a sufficient profit. Oregonians want and need many goods and services that the “sustainability mavens” passionately dislike. Creating the perception that timber products firms, big-box retailers, petroleum companies, ski resort operators, and many others aren’t welcome here doesn’t do anything positive for Oregon’s business image.

    Oregon's most significant economic growth in recent years has been in hi-tech, tourism and housing. Specific growth sub-sectors including beer brewing, wine making and the bicycle industry. All of these sectors (except, perhaps, a sub-sector of housing) thrive in Oregon's environment precisely because it does take steps to protect its environment, enforce its urban growth boundaries, and otherwise attempt to cultivate a business image involving sustainability (defined as working towards a clean environment and engaging in practices that, if continued, would pass the seven generations test). I'm not arguing that all growth in Oregon is sustainable, or is attracted to sustainability. But I am arguing that, indeed, creating new jobs and creating new green jobs could be the same thing, and that Oregon could thrive by defining itself again as "The Green State." Intel and the hi-tech sector, for instance -- like having clean water for fabs and a high quality of life for employees. Ditto for the brewing industry.

    Engaging in non-sustainable practices that only offer short-term gain for corporations and short-term jobs will do nothing good for the long-term health of the economy.

    Does that mean that there is no place for resource extraction or service sector jobs in Oregon? No. Not at all. Sustainable forestry is possible -- it means not harvesting old-growth forests, but rather only (at this point) harvesting from land that has already been re-planted at some point in the past, and at such a rate that the harvest can be continued on managed lands at the same rate indefinitely without cutting into future capacity by over-harvesting in the present. And for timber products firms, it's better to make products from sustainably-harvested wood than to export it unmilled or un-processed. Adding value should be the name of the game.

    Big-box stores actually, I would argue, are bad for the economic landscape of Oregon for a number of reasons, and discouraging them is good for the business environment (unless you happen to be a big box firm). Oregon needs to take steps to make itself attractive to new business and to tourism. Big box stores are just plain ugly, not to mention they are not often the best and highest use of the land. The more that Oregon differentiates itself, as a product, from the other products in the marketplace, that is, the other states in the union, the more competitive it becomes. The more it strives to look like, say, Switzerland, and less like, say, Orange County, California, the more it stands to gain in the way of competitive advantage.

    I agree that private capital should be encouraged to invest in Oregon, but I disagree that any compromises on "being green" are necessary to make this happen. On the contrary, the evidence points to sustainability as being a strong selling point for modern Oregon's economy.

  • Opinionated (unverified)
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    Garlynn - However, as I stated in my post, this thread is about the economic development department, not the educational system. While the educational system definitely has room for improvement, this does not give the state license to operate a poorly- run economic development department, which also has a role to play in strengthening the economy.

    Thats exactly my point, the economic development department needs to be tied into the educational system in some way. This can happen in many ways especially in the area of university research or funding research for new business development. I remember when I started my company, there was not one damn source of financing - everyone gave you the run-around including SBA and OEDD, with no venture capital floating around. There was a venture fund that had lottery money in it, but that too operated like a typical VC fund with high expectations of return. So I did what most entrepreneurs do - I bootstrapped it, because I wanted to live in Oregon and not go back to Silicon Valley. Sometimes I wish I had gone back.

    Coincidently, I just got back this evening from a presentation by Unitus Microfinance Fund, an amazing story of a non profit organization with a venture fund - a combination of social investing with a huge return. They have invested in microfinance organizations in India to uplift the poor, by helping millions of people in poverty double their income from $2 a day to $4 a day within a year with loans of $150.00 for one year with a 99% payback, and at the same time providing over 30% annualized return to their investors. Its an amazing story!

    I know I am going somewhat off my topic of education & economic development, but my point is that you can combine two ideas that may seem very opposite or polarized to create a huge economic impact at a very large scale. Maybe OEDD needs to be transformed into a different model, where education, research and ideas from microfinance serve as the base and run by folks who understand and invest in entreprenuers. I will be writing more about this on my blog in the very near future.

    I have a very strong opinion about this!

  • Blueshift (unverified)
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    I agree that education and economic development are inextricably linked, but I don't agree with the way you link them, Opinionated. Sure, Oregon could try creating a world-class educational system and hope that enough students come here to make it financially sustainable, and that they stay around after they graduate. But there's really no way to design higher education programs that will attract the kind of students we need while still looking far enough into the future to be relevant in 30 years. It's the short-term, long-term argument again.

    On the other hand, if we put an emphasis on attracting, developing and supporting businesses with a long-term, sustainable outlook, we're not only contributing to economic development, we're also creating a solid, lasting foundation for an educational system that will create the technologies that sustain the businesses of the future. It's a self-sustaining cycle, and it can start with business as well as with education. Bright students are more likely to study in Oregon if they can see jobs waiting on the other side of the diploma horizon. Likewise, researchers, educators, and innovative minds will be more attracted to Oregon's educational facilities if they can develop direct connections with the people who apply their research and hire their lab assistants.

    Above, you used the example of Silicon Valley. Yes, there were many Berkeley, Stanford, etc. graduates who contributed to the technological/economic advances there. But there were also a lot of people who were educated in other places, but moved because Silicon Valley had two things they wanted: well-paying, (mostly) reliable jobs in their fields, and a high quality of life. It's already been pointed out that educators are willing to teach in Oregon schools for a much lower than average salary (and the salaries are too low in Oregon, I agree) in exchange for that quality of life.

    So how do we go about replicating the Silicon Valley success? We're known for "thinking green," and for being innovative in our public policies. Sustainability means making wise use of what we have, with an eye to the future: that includes natural resources, economic incentives, brain trusts, government leadership, and common sense. Common sense says we should be doing everything we can to attract business that maintains our quality of life. And I certainly think there's a role for state government, in the form of OECDD, to play in that.

  • Opinionated (unverified)
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    The wisdom amongst most high tech entrepreneurs and business leaders in our neck of the woods is to invest more in education and attract researchers and combine it with investment capital sources that are entrepreneural in nature and you have a naturally sustaining economy which breeds from within and attracts outsiders. That is how Silicon Valley was built. OEDD or OECDD in its current has obviously not been very successful.

  • rural resident (unverified)
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    Garlynn:

    Oregon's most significant economic growth in recent years has been in hi-tech, tourism and housing. Specific growth sub-sectors including beer brewing, wine making and the bicycle industry.

    You're making my point for me. None of the three sectors you site would be considered "sustainable" and, thus, would not be acceptable under the Metzger approach, especially under Saltzman's definition of the word. (You're going to have to explain to me how beer brewing, wine making, and the bicycle industry have anything but the most tangential connection to any of these three sectors.)

    You're either missing or deliberately avoiding another point. Yes, we can create jobs in "green" industries -- and we should. It's one part of Oregon's identity. However, that's not what Metzger seems to be advocating. As I pointed out, he ONLY seems to want to create "green" jobs. Oregon can't afford to be that picky. Oh, maybe you can in the wealthy Portland Metro area or in the university towns (though it may be harder than you think). However, people in most of Oregon have to fight to attract private capital for commercial and industrial development. Things will become especially complicated when an industry that is "sustainable" in Portland or Salem isn't considered to be such in an outlying area, because anti-growth forces can so easily twist the definition to suit their own desires.

    I also get tired of the left-wing tripe about big box stores being bad. Bad for whom? Certainly not for their customers, who save money and improve their standard of living. Bad for their workers? If so, the workers would find jobs elsewhere. The people who work there obviously feel that those jobs are better than the ones they had, if they had any job before at all. Yes, some of these companies will have to change some of their approaches. For example, national single-payer health care requiring payroll tax payments as a percentage of wages will force them to participate more fully in providing health care. When these companies aren't serving their customers well, they'll change or be replaced by someone else. Until then, let's allow people freedom of choice. If you don't like "X" store, don't shop there.

    You seem to argue that Oregon should differentiate itself in the economic development market. With its one-of-a-kind land use regulation and its disdain for anything that might smack of big metro areas, we've been doing exactly that. The result is that we lag in economic development, the state has a terrible business image, and we have stubbornly high unemployment -- especially going into and coming out of recessions. (During the last recession, our unemployment rate was one of the highest, if not THE highest, in the nation. Pretty strange for a generally white, upper middle class state.) I also find it interesting that Blueshift above cites the "quality of life" in the SF Bay Area as one of the reasons their economy operates at such a high level. He's right, but it certainly isn't for want of building and development. It's an unending megalopolis from south of San Jose to Santa Rosa, and east to Fairfield and Vacaville. It's amazing how, even with plenty of ugly houses, strip malls, and those dreaded big boxes, quality of life is pretty good when your household income approaches six figures. And, even with plenty of trees and lakes, quality of life isn't very good if you can't afford to live there and have to move away.

  • dddave (unverified)
    (Show?)

    The largest problem with these so called ED commissions is that they are political, agendized, social engineering wannabees. If a business is not illegal, what the hell kind of right does our govt have in accepting or denying businesses entry into the Oregon market? Green smeen, get the folks some jobs, will ya? If you want to save us all from the "rape" of "our" land, they buy it yourself and grow your freakin grass. I can make a great case for NO corporate taxes. It all comes out of our pockets at the end of the day anyway. How about making Oregon a tax haven, provided you have your corporate HQ here as well as manufacturing. We'll just make the money on the payroll taxes. The biggest thing we can do for economic development is to get the hell out of the way. For those of you that think Oregon and especially Portland is a business friendly place really need to get out more. Just drive up 82nd to the border of Clackamas and Multnomah counties and see how oppressive system and development charges prevent said development in Portland.

  • Bill Thomas (unverified)
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    It is obvious that you folks do not understand Economic Development, and unfortunately that is what has happened at OECDD. The legislature continues to charge OECDD with conflicting directions which the department continues to try to adopt. It was the legislature that created programs and sets direction placed in statute. The department works to comply, but the legislators move on and forget the previous focus.

    In recent years the department has been decimated with the political placement of untrained managers who do not know the science of Economic Development. That, accompanied by the micro-management by the legislature has caused a paralysis.

    Economic Development happens when opportunity exists. OECDD has in times past been allowed to facilitate opportunity for communities in Oregon through the Regional Strategies, Community Assistance, and Infrastructure Development programs that have been extremely successful.

    Get out of the way and let them do their work!

  • RW (unverified)
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    A little shift in gears here, briefly, forgive me if this seems an interjection - given the apparent "informed" status of communicants in this forum: "In October 2001, the Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC) allowed PGE/Enron to raise rates by 41% overall, 53% for businesses. This $400 million annual increase continues to harm consumers and our local economy. Businesses have closed and Clackamas County residents have lost their jobs as a result. PGE signed high-priced power contracts during the period of May 2000-2001 while Enron, its owner, was manipulating the West Coast energy market to inflate power prices" (Oregon Public Power Coalition).

    A later move to bring PGE into public domain was quashed as I recall. Given the general discussion on this topic, will one of you update the picture? What is the current status? Are our rate increases linked to paying off damages awarded others? Any lawsuits to redress harm done to Oregonians (watch our rates go up so we can PAY OURSELVES BACK, hah)? Any moves to again bring public ownership of power to benefit the residents of a famously low-ball-wages/higher-cost-of-living region?

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