A harder road ahead for rural Oregon

| Print |  Email
Archives - April 2008
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

Downtime with Debra Ringold

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Dean of the Atkinson Graduate School of Management, Willamette University


Read more...

Reader Input: Road Work

March 2015
Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Oregon's roads are crumbling, and revenues from state and local gas taxes are not sufficient to pay for improvements. We asked readers if the private sector should help fund transportation maintenance and repairs. Research partner CFM Strategic Communications conducted the poll of 366 readers in February.

0315 input01 620px

 

Reader comments:

"I feel private enterprises are capable of operating at a higher efficiency than state government."

"This has been used in Oregon since the mid-1800s. It is not a new financing method. This form of financing may help Oregon close its infrastructure deficit by leveraging funds."


Read more...

5 stats about Oregon fireworks

The Latest
Thursday, June 18, 2015
fireworksthumb001BY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Fireworks are a booming industry, even if the pyrotechnics have turned July 4th into a day fire marshals, and many residents, love to hate.


Read more...

Balancing Act

July/August 2015
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY DAN COOK

The Affordable Care Act has triggered a rush on health care plan redesign, a process fraught with hidden costs and consequences.


Read more...

Brain Storm

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY CAMILLE GRIGSBY-ROCCA

Can the brave new world of neurotechnology help an OHSU surgeon find a cure for obesity?


Read more...

Quake as metaphor

Linda Baker
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
071515-earthquakia-thumbBY LINDA BAKER

The Big One serves as an allegory for Portland, a city that earns plaudits for lifestyle and amenities but whose infrastructure is, literally, crumbling.


Read more...

Reader Input: Fair Play

May 2015
Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Former Governor John Kitzhaber's resignation in February prompted some soul searching in this state about ethical behavior in industry and government.


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