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Tuesday
Jul242012

Oregon's Virtual Presidential Campaign

Oregon isn't a presidential battleground state, which means it has been reduced, in the phrasing of The Oregonian's David Sarasohn, to the role of "campaign ATM."

President Obama made a pit stop in Portland today to appear at a pair of fundraisers. His plane's vapor trail lingered longer than he did. The national press corps was here long enough, though, to scarf down some VooDoo donuts.

Obama followed in the footsteps of Republican challenger Mitt Romney, who has visited Oregon twice to collect campaign cash. Romney stayed longer because he scheduled more fundraising events. 

Neither candidate has staged a public event or submitted to an interview with local reporters to comment on issues of interest to Oregonians. Obama's visit was originally to include a grassroots event, but the shooting in Theater 9 in Colorado led to a schedule disruption. He did make a short stop at a breakfast place and visited with some veterans.

In previous election cycles, Oregon has been a state in play, attracting candidates from both major parties and often those from minor parties, such as the Green Party’s Ralph Nader. But the 2012 presidential election, so entertaining and unexpected in the GOP primary season, has turned into a predictable trench war targeting a shrinking number of undecided voters in a handful of battleground states. 

The election may be a foregone conclusion before the major party nominating conventions officially select the candidates in late August and early September. Naturally, both nominating conventions are on the other side of the continent.

So far, Oregonians haven't complained much about the presidential political slight. One reason is they have been spared the annoyance and anger sparked by endless attack ads, many funded by shadowy groups with unknown donors.

It is true, the absence of presidential attention has meant our job-producing manufacturing sector has gone largely unnoticed at press conferences and photo opportunities, which could produce memory-making pictures for their company walls.

Political operatives are quick to assure Oregonians they haven't been forgotten or, for that matter, taken for granted. Our votes count, even if the political assumption is that they already have been cast.

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Tuesday
Mar272012

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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Thursday
Feb092012

Jobs Bills in the Mix

In a short legislative session dominated by budget concerns and Governor Kitzhaber's ambitious reform efforts in health care, education and early learning, jobs bills have taken a back seat. But that doesn't mean they won't make it to the finish line.

There are major bills to coordinate the state's economic development activity, create more enterprise zones and reduce temporarily Oregon's capital gains tax rate. And there is legislation to clarify how and when to tax data centers such as Facebook's that were prize catches by previous economic development recruitment.

Here is a quick overview of some of the significant jobs-related legislation in Salem:

House Bill 4040: Drafted by two influential legislators — Reps. Tobias Read, D-Beaverton, and Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, along with State Treasurer Ted Wheeler, the Oregon Investment Act seeks to align state economic development programs and incentives to make them more inviting to private sector companies. The measure has passed out of the House Transportation Committee, so remains alive.

Read, Bentz and Wheeler co-authored an op-ed in The Oregonian explaining their intentions:

"Oregon spends significant Oregon Lottery profits and other funds today to enhance business development. Yet those tools are scattered across multiple agencies and have little strategic connection, and sometimes have little accountability to measure results.

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