The election of the 45th president reveals stark contrast between urban and rural Oregonians.
Jane and Terry Clark rest their elbows on the weathered break room table at Clark Asphalt and ponder the Trump agenda. Out back, along the Umatilla River on the Umatilla Indian Reservation adjacent to Pendleton, huge crushing machines are pulverizing paving materials — materials the Clarks believe will be in high demand if the president-elect makes good on his infrastructure package promise.
As the only asphalt provider in Eastern Oregon, more roads and bridges translate into more contracts for Clark Asphalt.
“I’d say most business people out here are hopeful,” Jane Clark says, referring to the farmers and manufacturers and retailers who live and work in the Pendleton area. Adds Terry: “Everyone I talk to about it — we’re on the same page.”
In Eastern Oregon, that page looks like the promised infrastructure package, better prices for wheat if President Trump follows through with his “program” to protect U.S. wheat prices by clamping down on imports, and fewer regulations, something the Clarks devote untold hours and dollars to.
“We sure won’t have more regulations under Trump,” Terry says, a wry grin cracking his face.
“Yes, I’d say I’m hopeful, for the first time in some years,” Jane says.
In Southern Oregon, the mood in the local business community is equally upbeat. “I’d say the sky is blue, blue, blue,” says Lithia Motors Chairman of the Board Sid DeBoer. DeBoer, who built Lithia Motors into a $5-billion-plus public company, watched Lithia’s stock soar more than $15 a share between the election and the end of the year.
As a major public company, Lithia would stand to benefit handsomely from Trump’s proposed corporate income tax cut. Any reduction in fuel economy standards would also help the auto industry and, by extension, a mass sales operation like Lithia.
“Trump wants winners, and that’s good,” DeBoer says. “I’m not saying I agree with him on everything. But he is the first businessman we've had as president, and business generally is going to hugely benefit.”