Nearly every day in Lane County the unemployed stream into local businesses looking for work. They can’t pay their mortgages. They can’t pay their bills. They can’t feed their families. They don’t have health insurance. Their jobs are being choked off as the manufacturers, industries, farms, ranches, trucking companies and others who employed thousands here with good family-supporting wages, benefits and vacations, are just quitting.
We need good quality of life regulations. But excessive regulations are unnecessarily limiting the use of our best assets: our natural resources and population of willing workers.
The key areas in which we could expand our economic development are private businesses and industries consisting of manufacturing, construction, agriculture, transportation and other industries noted below. Oregon and Lane County are unique in that they possess the natural assets that could pull us out of our economic doldrums. We can grow and make products; we can add to their value; we can sell and ship them across the nation and around the world. Local entrepreneurs and established businesses will create real jobs – if we just get out of their way.
Take agriculture, which has been one of the larger and more stable sources of employment for workers in the region. Before the 2009 recession, Oregon’s agriculture industry was linked to a workforce of 214,511 full or part-time jobs & $25.8 billion in sales. Oregon’s agricultural exports grew 71.6% and comprised one of the top two export industries through the first quarter of 2008 on a year-over-year basis.
Often, private job creation is hobbled by excessive planning processes and resulting regulations. Region 2050 Problem Solving Program, Envision Eugene, LTD’s West Eugene EmX, Lane Livability Consortium and Smart Communities Project just to name a few. Lane Livability Consortium alone proposed 193 scheduled meetings over the next three years as it plans to duplicate and triplicate efforts of local elected governments in an effort to create a spaghetti-like tangle of regulations and processes. The strategy seemed to be to overwhelm citizens with thick reports and paperwork, then burden them with a multitude of monotonous meetings that accomplish little.
The past two decades have generated a record number of rules, regulations, fee increases, taxing districts, overlay zones and additional government controls. We need good regulations that help maintain our high quality of life. Traditional blue-collar workers, who once earned a living wage of about $50,000 per year from manufacturing industries or trades, are losing their jobs in record numbers, in part because their employers – the job providers – simply cannot comply with unnecessary, burdensome regulations and still stay in business. The table below shows the loss of jobs in manufacturing and trades over the last five years here in Lane County.
Since the early ‘80’s, which marked the beginning of spotted owl litigation, our government, state and local agencies and regulators have continued to aggressively restrict and tax the private businesses that create jobs. These private industries and businesses used to purchase millions of dollars of local consumables each year, putting even more people to work. Now they are downsizing, closing or moving out of Oregon. These employers are being forced away because it can be more profitable doing business elsewhere. We need these jobs back. We need to encourage our Job Providers while maintaining reasonable quality of life regulations.
Our Job Providers are not on strike. They simply gave up and sought out more hospitable business environments.