Strategic Pillar II: Grow the Economy

Building Steam: State investments and policy changes to help restore rural jobs

Background

Throughout the summer of 2014, OBA participated with several partners on a statewide series of economic forums held across the state to learn more about what rural communities need to build their economies. (See the overview documents for each forum here:  http://www.oregon4biz.com/dev/www/BOR/Economic-Forums/)

In addition to the regional forums, we’re also proposing several policies below that will positively impact Oregon’s rural areas, from food innovation to forest collaboratives.

“From 2007 to 2012, Oregon’s total employment declined 5.3 percent. During that same period of time, Oregon’s manufacturing sector shed 15.8 percent of its jobs. In contrast, Oregon’s food manufacturing employment managed to grow 7.8 percent from 2007 to 2012, bucking the trend of large employment losses experienced by the rest of the manufacturing sector during the recession.”
Oregon Employment Department 

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Problems

High unemployment, high poverty rates and fewer educational opportunities continue to plague Oregon’s rural areas that are not recovering at the same rate as more urban areas. OBA believes efforts to grow jobs, improve educational opportunities and build infrastructure are key to reversing trends of low business investment, poverty, outmigration and joblessness in these areas.

“We’re at this cusp…Younger rural residents are moving into their “home-buying and root-planting years.
If we’re not able to keep them, and they blow off to Portland, these areas could get into a very bad negative cycle.”

–Oregon State Economist Mark McCullen, The Oregonian

Solutions

Counties

Tax policy

  • Biomass tax credit: OBA supports a concept to improve the effectiveness of the Biomass Producer or Collector Tax Credit and pilot a production-based tax credit incentive for bioenergy projects.

State Investments

  • Food Innovation Initiative: OBA, along with the Oregon Business Council and the Northwest Food Processors Association, has convened the “Oregon Food and Beverage Leadership Council” with the goal of creating food and beverage industry policies that will: a) accelerate innovation, b) grow and attract top talent, c) grow and retain existing businesses, d) create and manage a “Certified Oregon” label, and e) coordinate export opportunities.
  • Forest Collaboratives: OBA supports harvesting timber on federal lands in sustainable ways that boost rural economies and lead to healthier forests. OBA supports increased state funding for forest collaboratives to restore overstocked, unhealthy and fire-prone forests to natural conditions and create rural jobs. Forest collaboratives are the most effective way to put loggers back to work, support wood products businesses, and protect natural resources for the safety and well-being of rural and urban communities.
  • Western Juniper Utilization Project: OBA supports the Western Juniper Utilization Project to help protect grazing land, conserve water supply, manage the spread of disruptive plants, protect threatened species, and serve as a resource for biomass energy.

food

Policy change

  • Clean Fuels Program: Approximately one-third of Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation. OBA supports the Clean Fuels program which will reduce Oregon’s transportation-related carbon emissions by ten percent in ten years by lowering the carbon intensity of fuels used in the state. OBA believes the following considerations should be addressed for an acceptable final program: quality standards for biodiesel, alternative options if fuel supplies do not materialize, cost containment mechanisms, and flexibility to harmonize with federal standards. The Clean Fuels Program can also open the door to economic development opportunities for Oregon’s renewable fuels industry.
  • Water storage and delivery: OBA supports innovative solutions to address increasing competition for scarce water resources that balance the needs of irrigated agriculture, municipal and industrial demand and sustainable fisheries, among others. One such approach we support involves summer time withdrawals of Columbia River water that are replaced with bucket for bucket mitigation from winter time withdrawals stored in reservoirs upstream. OBA will stay at the table to balance growth of Oregon’s economy, while protecting the state’s natural resources.
  • Agritourism: Agritourism is a growing industry in Oregon.The biggest barrier for operating an agritourism business is the increased cost of overhead, including insurance, permits and staffing. Problems also arise when bringing tourists on to working farms that can have inherent dangers. OBA supports updating Oregon liability statutes to protect farmers that operate an agritourism business.
  • Industrial Land: Land use laws are an important mechanism in Oregon for preserving natural landscapes and farmland as well as ensuring a future supply of land for industrial, commercial and residential users.  OBA will engage in land use discussions as they occur. OBA supports creating a loan fund for regionally significant industrial sites. OBA also supports funding to assess the availability of industrial land in Oregon.