As we close the books on one of the the most economically challenging years since the Great Depression, ThinkOregon poses this question: Will 2010 be the year that Oregonians finally place economic sustainability on par with environmental sustainability?
It was a question echoed by Professor Timothy Duy, Director of the Oregon Economics Forum at the University of Oregon, in a December 17th presentation to the Westside Economic Alliance.
ThinkOregon has advocated for sometime now that Oregon adopt economically sustainable practices on the scope and scale afforded the environment; creating a supportive business climate in which employers are able to create new, living-wage jobs.
In his presentation, Profession Duy enumerated what makes a region attractive to firms:
- Labor Supply
- Transportation Networks
- Pro-business climate
- Land supply
ThinkOregon agrees and goes one step further by recommending that state and local officials conserve limited taxpayer resources in order to stem the unfettered growth of government.
A look back at 2009 reveals just how fragile — and out of balance — our state’s economy had become. It’s as if Oregon had developed monocular vision, viewing all things exclusively through the lens of the environment. From our perspective, Oregon’s strength had become it’s weakness.
To be clear, ThinkOregon is not suggesting that Professor Duy agrees with our premise, but in a slide entitled “Big Question” Tim asks: “Can a region afford to set policies that make them undesirable to large firms?”
ThinkOregon has asserted on numerous occasions that instead of a balanced approach to policy making, the region has pursued policies that have put Oregon at a distinct economic disadvantage. The public discourse has become so single-minded that intolerance has crept into Oregon’s consciousness: Oregon employers are labeled as big corporations; profits are questioned; and, the wealthy vilified.
The unintended consequences for Oregonians have been nothing short of devastating: record unemployment, record food stamp enrollment, record school-aged poverty, record mortgage defaults and like a broken record, the list goes on and on. All this at a time when progressives and conservatives agree … the wealthier companies and individuals are … the more they contribute to the well-being of the environment, schools and those in need.
How then, do we regain our footing without rolling back what we all have come to cherish… and without damaging Oregon’s “green” brand equity? In a word: balance.
Professor Duy concluded his remarks to the group by asking: “Are we ready to admit that there is a problem?”
The fact he can ask that question in public without castigation is perhaps the very best sign that Oregon maybe ready to bring itself back into balance and place economic sustainability on par with environmental sustainability.