Sponsored by Energy Trust

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

Justice for All

January-Powerbook 2015
Thursday, December 11, 2014
BY JESSICA RIDGWAY

Lawger upends the typical hourly based fee model by letting clients determine the cost.


Read more...

Free Falling

Contributed Blogs
Thursday, December 18, 2014
121714-oilprice-thumbBY JASON NORRIS | OB CONTRIBUTOR

The implosion of the energy complex: The best thing for low oil prices is low oil prices.


Read more...

The short list: 5 companies making a mint off kale

The Latest
Thursday, November 20, 2014
kale-thumbnailBY OB STAFF

Farmers, grocery stores and food processors cash in on kale.


Read more...

The 100 Best Companies survey is open

News
Friday, October 24, 2014

100-best-logo-2015 500pxw-1How does your workplace stack up against competitors? How can you improve workplace practices to help recruit and retain employees? Find out by taking our 100 Best Companies to Work for in Oregon survey!


Read more...

Editor's Letter: Power Play

January-Powerbook 2015
Thursday, December 11, 2014

There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.

This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay. 

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.

New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”

That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

— Linda


Read more...

Streetfight

News
Sunday, December 07, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

On Friday, Uber switched on an app — and with one push of the button torpedoed Portland’s famed public process.


Read more...

See How They Run

January-Powerbook 2015
Friday, December 12, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

Studying ground-running birds, a group that ranks among nature's speediest and most agile bipedal runners, to build a faster robot.


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