A harder road ahead for rural Oregon

| Print |  Email
Tuesday, April 01, 2008

IT ISN’T DEBATABLE anymore that the economy is in a heap. Call it what you will, recession or not, but credit is drying up, jobs are disappearing, banks are faltering and housing prices are dropping. (Yes, Oregon is a holdout but, really, for how much longer?) Throw in rising food and gas prices just for good measure.

What also is not debatable is that rural Oregon will suffer the most because bad times hit rural areas hardest; with their already high unemployment, high poverty rates and low incomes, there aren’t a lot of layers between them and the bitter winds of a downturn.

s_Robin ROBIN DOUSSARD

In the decades since rural Oregon lost natural resources as an economic base, its citizens and leaders have struggled to find a replacement. No one I’ve met in rural Oregon thinks they are going to get an answer handed to them.

Across the state, I’ve seen towns trying everything they can think of to diversify their job base and help create prosperity: wind farms, high-tech hideouts for city refugees, tourism, natural beef, mining zeolite, staging Shakespearean plays. You name it, it’s out there. The small towns are rich in innovation, if not in number of jobs.

Some even thought that putting a correctional facility in their town would help. As associate editor Ben Jacklet reports in this issue (see Prisontown myth, page 30), prisons are not a magic solution for a struggling community. Painfully for some towns, they are worse off than before.

Now the Office of Rural Policy is shuttered just a few years after the governor created it (see story, page 10). Retired Gilliam County judge Laura Pryor told me last year when she was in Salem fighting for the office that she didn’t believe that people set out to “murder” rural Oregon, but the law of unintended consequences might end up committing the crime.

Ray Naff, with the governor’s economic revitalization team, vows to keep the work of the office going, seeing success in building a few jobs here and there, and not giving up. “There is no single answer,” he says, “but if you take your eye off the ball, you’re gone.”

Ways and Means Committee co-chair Rep. Mary Nolan, a Democrat from Portland, says the office had effectively raised the awareness of rural issues and wasn’t necessary anymore, so her committee killed it. “It might have been different in a different revenue picture,” she says.

In a different revenue picture, rural Oregon might not have needed the office as much.

There will be many chances to test Nolan’s assertion and Pryor’s fears as Oregon struggles with the downturn. There are serious issues facing the state, with lots of special interests clamoring for attention, and rural voices — few and far between — are hard to hear. Will rural Oregon find it has champions or unwitting executioners?

Like the man says, take your eye off the ball, and you’re gone.

 

More Articles

Top stories in 2014

The Latest
Thursday, December 18, 2014
10-listthumb

2014 was a year of wild contradictions, fast-paced growth and unexpected revelations.


Read more...

Old school: Paulsen's Pharmacy maintains old fashion ethos

The Latest
Thursday, December 18, 2014
121914-pharmacy-thumbBY MEGHAN NOLT

VIDEO: Under the radar — complete with a soda counter, the traditional Paulsen's Pharmacy looks to compete with big box retailers.


Read more...

5 schools helping students crack code

The Latest
Thursday, January 29, 2015
codeduthumbnailBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

As the costs of college mount, and as employer demand for software developers soars, coding schools and classes are popping up everywhere.


Read more...

Legislative Preview: A Shifting Balance

January-Powerbook 2015
Thursday, December 11, 2014
BY APRIL STREETER

Democratic gains pave the way for a revival of environment and labor bills as revenue reform languishes.


Read more...

The city as startup

Guest Blog
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
011415 citystartup-thumbBY NISHANT BHAJARIA | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

Startups in the growth phase are associated with a fresh infusion of capital — human and financial — a curiosity factor and products to disrupt the market and drive demand. Portland’s economy gives off the same aroma.


Read more...

Playoffs pay off for the Ducks

The Latest
Friday, January 02, 2015
oregon-ducks-logo-helmet-thumbBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

The University of Oregon football team looked unstoppable on the field Jan. 1 — and the university is reaping the benefits of the new postseason format.


Read more...

Imperial Palate

February 2015
Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Power Lunch at the Imperial.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS