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Entries in economic development (2)


Making State Jobs Programs Do the Job

Legislators of both political parties and from all parts of Oregon agreed the state can play a more significant role in job creation by making its far-flung economic development efforts more agile and coordinated.

With nearly unanimous support in their short 2012 session, lawmakers approved House 4040, which the Eugene Register-Guard said "could prove to be the most far-reaching jobs bill that emerged from the legislative session."

The genesis of the Oregon Investment Act stands in stark contrast to the bickering and posturing in Congress as it debates how to stimulate the still-sluggish U.S. economy.  The act also provided a way for legislators here to surmount their usual differences over the appropriate government role in economic development.

To get behind the scenes, I asked Rep. Tobias Read to recount how the measure came about. Here's what he said:

"After he was elected, Governor Kitzhaber and his team asked Treasurer Ted Wheeler, Business Development Commission Chair Wally Van Valkenburg and me to serve as something of an economic development transition team. We had a lot of help from Scott Nelson (Governor's office), Tim McCabe (Business Oregon director), Paul Grove (Business Oregon legislative coordinator) and others as we worked quickly to put together some recommendations. We also recognized that there was far more work than could be done in the short time between his election and his inauguration, so, as we delivered our recommendations, we asked for the opportunity to continue working.  

"We got permission, and spent some time learning about strategies from other states and countries, and then went on the road to talk with people about what businesses in Oregon needed to expand and hire.

"We heard different versions of the same story around the state. The consistent theme was that businesses couldn't get access to the capital they needed to expand.  Furthermore, people felt that Oregon's programs are scattered across agencies, difficult to find, and too rigid.

"We recognized that we couldn't solve all these problems in the short session, or in the time that led up to it, so the Investment Act (House Bill 4040) is really enabling legislation that creates the Growth Board to build a plan to address all these issues — and to make policy recommendations to set the stage for substantive changes next session.  We made clear that we were interested in establishing priorities, promoting flexibility, achieving coordination, and gaining the leverage that comes from attracting new private-sector dollars into the Oregon economy.  

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Good News for Rural Oregon

Interesting news lately about data center investments in rural Oregon. Interesting because, for once, rural Oregon is getting the benefit of economic development instead of just urban Oregon.

There are still "two Oregons" when it comes to spurring economic activity in the state. All you have to do is look at rural county unemployment rates, which are all higher than those in urban areas. But several rural investments made news last week, according to details provided in The Oregonian:

         *  Facebook is building a second, 330,000-square-foot data center in Prineville next door to a facility that opened last year.  Upgrades in the region's power network made room for the company's expanded footprint.

         *  Apple is starting small with a new data center in Prineville. 

         *  Amazon is going big. It just started work on a second large data center in Morrow County. 

         *  Officials at the Port of Morrow are optimistic that data-hosting specialist, Rackspace, will exercise an option to buy 99 acres for a new facility near Boardman by its March 31 deadline. 

Further, from The Oregonian:  "Oregon's data center industry is flourishing this spring, with government assistance. The Bonneville Power Administration has accelerated plans to upgrade Central Oregon's power supply, while the state legislature voted last month to guarantee the industry's lucrative tax breaks. Data centers arrived in Oregon in 2006, when Google built its first major data facility in The Dalles. Activity took off last year, when Facebook opened its first company-owned data center, and Amazon opened a long-awaited data center near Boardman."

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