Clearly I hit a nerve. Responses to last week’s Jobs Watch column on the alleged-but-not-yet-proven exodus of Oregon businesses from Oregon set new standards for vitriol. Some readers went so far as to suggest that the job I should watch out for is my own. Sorry, guys. Even the most hard-nosed CEOs don’t get to fire other people’s employees.
Well if can dish it out I’d better be able to take it. So swing away and take your best shot. I am here to be pummeled. The point of a free press is to encourage an open and honest discussion of the important issues of the day, and clearly to our readers this is a very important issue. So let’s discuss it openly and honestly.
However, I have to point out that for all of the great and not-so-great responses last week’s column elicited, I still am lacking the name of a single job-creating investor or executive who is in fact leaving Oregon because of Measures 66 and 67.
Once I get such a name, on the record, I promise to explore in great detail the specific reasons behind that person’s departure, along with a mathematical analysis of the cost-benefit decision to leave Oregon for a new location, taking into consideration individual and business taxes, incentives, moving costs, educational systems, infrastructure, residential and commercial real estate values and overall quality of life, plus whatever other factors may have been involved. I think that would make a great story, but to get started I’ll need some proof that people are indeed leaving because of the taxes.
In the meantime, here’s some news about businesses moving into Oregon, creating jobs and investing in our state.
The first is Genentech, the California-based pharmaceutical giant that plans to open its packaging and distribution center next week in Hillsboro. Genentech was recruited heavily and with generous subsidies to come to Oregon, and the company has invested $400 million in Oregon and created 250 jobs. It isn’t doing any R&D in Hillsboro, but that could change over time, since Genentech owns the 35-acre parcel of land next door and is keeping it handy for future expansion.
Then there’s Facebook. The social networking phenom has selected Prineville as the site of its $175 million data center, and it has chosen Portland-based Fortis Construction, one of the state’s fastest-growing private companies, to build it. This is a major score for jobs-hungry Prineville and for super-savvy Fortis, which was delving deeply into data server farms back when other construction companies didn’t even know what they were.
The last example for today is Ferrotec, the Japanese manufacturing company that’s planning to open a new plant in Gresham this summer, employing 30 people to build build quartz and silicon crucible for solar cells. Though not as well known as the other global giants to choose Oregon for their solar plants in recent years such as SolarWorld and Sanyo, Ferrotec is a well-regarded global producer that adds another key ingredient to a solar energy cluster that grows richer and more complex by the year.
I’m confident that plenty of other fine businesses will follow the road into Oregon well worn by welcome newcomers SolarWorld, Sanyo, Facebook, Ferrotec and even Fortis Construction (which started out as the Portland office of a California firm, then decided to start up a new company in Portland). As for the alleged exodus of business talent out of Oregon, I'll believe it when I see proof.
Ben Jacklet is managing editor of Oregon Business.