Surviving and Thriving in the Global Economy - Business leaders sign a declaration for Oregon's future
A year ago, concerned about the vitality of
the Oregon economy in this competitive age of globalization, BrainstormNW
and The Oregon Community Foundation convened Oregon CEOs from public and
private companies to discuss the future of Oregon’s economy. At
the outset, project leaders posed some simple but important questions
to a diverse group of leading Oregon CEOs.
1) Could Oregon CEOs agree on a common voice
to help Oregon move forward in the increasing global economy?
2) If so, is there a need to communicate their
vision for Oregon to the public, the media and to government leaders?
3) Is there a need for CEOs from Oregon’s
high-tech community and from more traditional industries to build a forum
to educate and communicate with one another?
4) Is the pace of the global economy changing
Oregon’s economic future in a way that necessitates a coordinated
message for positive future growth?
The document that emerged from meetings and
informal sessions of these diverse CEOs expresses a common view of Oregon’s
future. “A Declaration of Oregon’s Future: Surviving and Thriving
in the Global Economy” completes the initial phase of the Oregon
CEO network project.
Against the backdrop of challenging global economic
times, this network of business leaders looks forward to strong leadership
and a clear, common vision for Oregon’s economic health. BrainstormNW
and The Oregon Community Foundation are pleased to facilitate this pathway
for Oregon’s CEOs to articulate a brighter economic future. We encourage
discussion and debate of the measures presented in this document.
As Oregonians who own or operate businesses in the state, we share a
concern about Oregon’s macroeconomic position going forward in the
global economy. The world economy is relentless, and the competitive climate
is fierce. Yet Oregon’s infrastructure is weak, preventing the state
from taking advantage of both existing resources and new opportunities
for global growth. As we view Oregon’s competitive position, we
share deep concerns for the well-being and security of the many thousands
of employees with whom we work on a daily basis. We believe that without
significantly upgrading the state’s economic infrastructure, job
expansion in Oregon will concentrate and stagnate in low-paying service
sector jobs and not in higher paying professional, manufacturing, engineering,
and other creative fields. Opportunities for advancement and future employment
Upgrading Oregon’s infrastructure will require significant leadership.
As individual Oregon business owners and CEOs we are prepared to step
up to that commitment and educate Oregonians on the critical issues and
challenges facing our state.
Signatories to this document lead companies that make a significant portion
of their income from business conducted outside of Oregon—some do
less than 2 percent of their business in the state. Therefore, let us
be clear that it is not out of a selfish or profit motive that we make
these policy recommendations to the government leaders of our state but
because we share a strong community feeling for Oregon and a deep concern
that Oregon is quickly falling behind other states and countries (as measured
by per capita income) in the creation of family-wage jobs. We live here,
we raise families here, we want to grow and share the same economic stability
that our companies have built with all Oregonians. We base this belief
on our own unique experiences of running companies that compete every
day in the world economy. We offer these future policy recommendations
based on that experience.
Here are the measures that we believe Oregon must adopt to go forward
in the world economy. We offer these suggestions not based on what is
currently politically possible in Oregon but instead on the reality of
the macroeconomic requirements for Oregon to compete successfully globally.
Problem: States and nations that are growing in the world economy use
consumption taxes and broad-based tax systems. Oregon cannot be unique.
Solution: Oregon must move to a broader tax base, which should include
a consumption tax tied to significantly reducing the state’s personal
income tax, reducing the capital gains tax and the estate tax, and reducing
dependence on fees. A consumption tax would also stabilize Oregon’s
tax revenue swings. It is critical that Oregon tax reform be stimulative;
adjustments should be revenue neutral in the short term with slow growth
below trend in the long term.
PUBLIC PENSIONS REFORM
Problem: The commitment Oregon taxpayers face to pay for public benefit
programs, most notably PERS, puts the state in an untenable financial
position. As an example, upwards of 20 percent of the payroll of many
Oregon school districts goes to cover PERS. Health benefits also run higher
than national averages. World businesses will not locate here if the state
faces such a dramatic financial liability.
Solution: Oregon must bring public pensions into line with private sector
plans. Future negotiations should focus on total compensation and benefits
and aim to shrink the difference between public and private plans, with
strongly directed preference for defined contribution plans. The governor,
legislators and judges should be moved to defined contribution plans.
HIGHER EDUCATION REFORM
Problem: Oregon is one of only four states in the U.S. where high-tech
is the leading industry, but the industry is not supported by the highest
quality higher education programs.
Solution: Oregon must take bold measures to grow nationally ranked, top-tier
universities, departments and programs that generate 21st century jobs.
Examples of these programs include OHSU Neurological Science, OSU Nuclear
Engineering, U of O Green Chemistry/Nanoscience, PSU Food Service, OIT
Alternative Energy Program, and Babson Business School. The creation of
leading engineering programs will take a tremendous amount of resources,
so it is important to eliminate duplication and create critical mass where
possible in the state’s higher-ed system as these focused programs
TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE RENEWAL AND RETHINKING
Problem: To compete in the world economy, people, goods and services must
move with speed. This must be accomplished while also shouldering responsibility
regarding reduced CO2 emissions and helping reduce our dependence on foreign
sources of energy. Oregon’s current transportation infrastructure
is inadequate to the task.
Solution: Oregon must dramatically improve its roads and rail service
and modernize its port capabilities. Critical thinking must also be applied
to the future of Oregon’s public transportation to fit modern international
business needs. Plans should be comprehensive, including roads, rail,
waterways, bridges, and airports. Aggressive use of alternative fuels
must be a key part of Oregon’s expansion strategy to speed commerce
while balancing energy responsibility.
LAND USE REFORM
Problem: Oregon cannot compete in global business with unique, burdensome
land use regulations not shared by any of our neighboring states.
Solution: Oregon should alter its land use laws to allow shovel-ready
industrial sites in desirable areas and to permit development on non-agricultural
land. Current laws requiring a 20-year supply of industrial land should
also be enforced, and the permitting process should be improved.
WISE USE OF NATURAL RESOURCES
Problem: As of a result of not allowing even environmentally-friendly
harvesting of our timber resources, in 2002 more than six million acres
of U.S. forests burned—one million of those acres were in Oregon.
Water resources and fisheries also continue to be areas of concern and
Solution: Oregon must rely on its comparative advantage in natural resources,
including timber and agricultural products. As an example, using woody
biomass for electric energy, bio-fuels and bio-products will improve forest
health, support rural economies, provide new sources of renewable energy,
and strengthen Oregon’s forest products industry. According to the
Oregon Forest Resources Institute, the forest sector currently provides
85,000 direct family-wage jobs in Oregon and has created another 100,000
indirect jobs. Oregon’s governor, legislators and other elected
officials must demand that federal and state government allow Oregon companies
to responsibly harvest in Oregon’s state and national forests.
Problem: Oregon spends nearly 50 percent of the state’s general
fund on K-12 education—more than $5 billion—yet accountability,
quality and stability in our education system are still major concerns
Solution: A major bipartisan effort, funded by some of our most respected
non-profit foundations, has birthed the “Chalkboard Project,”
which has delivered a 15-point action plan to begin to address our K-12
challenges (www.chalkboardproject.com). We strongly support this bipartisan
effort and feel progress is vital to the continued retention of our workforce
as well as growth through recruitment.
Our aim is for Oregon and Oregonians to reach their full potential—to
be full participants in the new world economy, not limited to service
We call on other Oregon business leaders to join us in our efforts to
move Oregon’s infrastructure forward.
We call on our candidates and elected leaders in both parties to embrace
these economic, nonpartisan reform goals for the benefit of all Oregonians.
We call for change, immediately where possible, more methodically when
that is prudent. But for the economic health, security and stability of
all Oregonians, we call on our candidates and leaders on both sides of
the aisle to aggressively incorporate these reforms into their platforms,
agendas and proposals.
We will encourage those leaders who share our vision for Oregon to be
a success in the future global economy. We are committed to these goals
and will continually track progress on them in government, business organizations
and in the media.
SIGNATORIES AS OF SEPT. 1, 2006
To join the discussion, contact BrainstormNW
of The Oregon Community Foundation.
Scott Andrews, Melvin Mark Properties
Ken and Joan Austin, A-dec
Domonic Biggi, Beaverton Foods
Bill Blount, UBS
Tim Boyle, Columbia Sportswear
Norm Brenden, Holiday Retirement
John Carter, Schnitzer Steel Industries
Karla Chambers, Stahlbush Island Farms
Scott Chambers, Chambers Communication
David Chen, Oregon Inc.
Bill Colson, Holiday Retirement
Mark Dodson, Northwest Natural
Dave Edson, Umpqua Bank
Dave Evans, David Evans and Assoc.
Mike Fahey, Columbia Helicopters
Rob Freres, Freres Lumber
Scott Gibson, Radisys
Frank Gill, Intel (retired)
Dan Giustina, Giustina Resources
Joe Gonyea III, Timber Products Company
Bob Gregg, FEI
Scott Grout, Radisys
Wes Lematta, Columbia Helicopters
Jim Mark, Melvin Mark Properties
Andrew Miller, Stimson Lumber
Judy Peppler, Qwest
Steve Pratt, ESCO
Ralph Quinsey, TriQuint Semiconductor
Hank Swigert, ESCO (retired)
Bill Thorndike, Medford Fabrication
Don Tykeson, Tykeson Assoc.
Rod Wendt, JELD-WEN
Sam Wheeler, Wheeler Foundation
Donna Woolley, Eagles View Management
Steve Zika, Hampton Affiliates