Statesman Journal Editorial 11/14/2010

“The state of Oregon is open for business,” Gov.-elect John Kitzhaber declared last week. He went on to say, “We need to start celebrating the positives in Oregon.”

He is right, and he’s not alone.

Job creation is the No. 1 issue for the new governor. … For outgoing Gov. Ted Kulongoski during his final weeks in office. … For the Legislature. … For people throughout the state.

Kitzhaber noted that Forbes magazine last month rated Oregon’s business climate as the nation’s sixth-best, despite the controversial passage earlier this year of tax Measures 66/67.

Oregon rose from 10th place last year in Forbes’ “Best States for Business and Careers” rankings, while neighboring Washington state fell from No. 2 to No. 5.

We would bet that Oregon’s ranking would be even higher if the “Quality of Life” category included more than “schools, health, crime, cost of living and poverty rates.”

Our environment — the coast, valleys, mountains, Columbia gorge and desert — is an integral part of what we Oregonians consider our quality of life. But we also should appreciate that our schools and other public services are stronger than many states’.

In fact, Oregon has so many things going for it that it’s tempting to brag about our state. In the spirit of rebuilding our economy, it’s time to yield to that temptation — and show the world that we’re not only proud of our state, but we’re also confident in our state’s future.

As he announced his transition plans last week, Kitzhaber discussed the tremendous opportunities Oregon has to create jobs in urban and rural areas alike. He has tapped leaders from private business, unions and government to lead five job-creation teams.

The rest of us have a role as well — as advocates for Oregon.

This is not to say we should downplay our problems, which include persistently high unemployment and low per-capita income. However, we should also acclaim Oregon’s many attributes, from Salem-Keizer’s world-class music education program to our beloved, well-maintained state parks to the availability of excellent, low-priced industrial land. Each of those contributes to the business climate, including the quality of life for employees and their families.

Some folks argue that we shouldn’t talk up Oregon because that would simply draw more people here. That argument is full of holes.

For starters, nearly 200,000 Oregonians officially are unemployed, and many more are either under-employed or have given up seeking work altogether. These Oregonians need the jobs that would be created through business expansion.

In addition, we want people to visit Oregon because tourism is a key sector of our economy. In fact, the leisure and hospitality industry has expanded its employment by 3,000 jobs during the past year, the largest gain of any major Oregon industry.

If Oregonians show confidence in their state — not arrogance but self-assurance — it will be palpable to business leaders, the people who make decisions about where, when and how to invest.
Most of us won’t be on Kitzhaber’s job-creation teams. But each of us can contribute to a climate of “Oregon is open for business.”

Read more