Oregon Business Plan — Southern Oregon edition

Today marks a Southern Oregon version of the Oregon Business Plan conference held in Portland during December.
Besides fixing the public employment retirement system and bolstering education, the emphasis in Portland was the Columbia Crossing, replacing the present I-5 bridge between Portland and Vancouver, Wash. The idea is to enhance commercial activity by improving the region’s primary trade route.
The regional forum focuses on other areas of the state economy.
Associated Oregon Industries leader Jay Clemens said much of what happens in the Business Plan is dependent on action by the Oregon Legislature.
What happens to all the good ideas?
Even the best ideas get lost if not effort made to bring them forward.
What happens next – as early as next week – AOI convenes a group of lobbyist to shepherd bills through the Legislature during the coming months, said J.L. Wilson.
Oregon Prosperity Project serves as the communication forum for some 200,000 followers of the Oregon Business Plan.
Why fix PERS first and then education?
“The increased contribution of PERS eat up all the additional funds going into the education system,” said Jeremy Rodgers, Oregon Business Plan’s project manager. “The best way to get funds into education is by addressing the cost drivers.”
Concerning taxes, an issued raised by an audience member, is there a way to make Oregon’s system more competitive and pro-growth.
“How do you substitute the revenue? You get into the dreaded sales tax question,” Wilson said. “There is a complexity to that issue. We take your side, but we’re going to have to find a middle ground.”
“We’re not here on an island,” said Dave Lohman of the Oregon Transportation Commission.
After Fern Valley and work on Highway 62 is done, he said. “We’re out of money. All travel modes have to be strategic”
Bob Ragon of the Douglas Timber Operators in Lane, Douglas, Coos counties said back in 2005, there were 55,000 rail cars in Oregon, 70 percent carrying timber products.
“I have all the confidence in the world that Gennessee-Wyoming will do a better job of maintaining the lines,” Ragon said.
After years of short-term funding from the Federal Transportation Department, the FAA is now providing a three-year allocation helping the Medford Airport plan its operations. Kim Stearns the airport spokesperson said passenger growth continues to be an important element and triggered the need to lower landing fees to remain competitive with nearby regional airports.
Wayne Maiers of J&P Cycles, whose firm has aligned with Internet-driven Motorcycle Super Store in Medford, said air freight is important to provide just in time deliveries.
“Amazon has got to where it can deliver anywhere in the United States, and FedEx has followed that,” Maiers said.
During peak season the company will ship as many as 18,000 packages per day.
We aren’t going to see Southwest Airlines, said Stearns. We have prop-planes, but will have to see more travel before seeing larger planes.
“When we attend the small airports conferences (Director) Bern (Case) meets with four to five airlines,” Stearns said. “But the demand isn’t there yet.”
When it came to education and workforce reform, Kirk Gibson, vice president of instruction said there has been a shift from access to completion with a heightened effort to improve students coming out with competencies.
“We can’t work on every sector so we aim for those with high demand, high wages, high skills,” said Nikki Jones of the Workforce Partnership. Those are healthcare, advanced manufacturing, e-commerce and technology.
“There is a tremendous amount of untapped potential among people who haven’t gone down the (traditional) educational track. We want people who are smart, motivated and passionate,” said Tolga Latif of Lin Technology in Josephine County. “We exploited the weakness (of a trained pool) by not hiring experienced people, but talented people.”
Dual enrollment and college credit for high school students aimed at preparing them for careers.

Ken Wienke, resource procurement manager of Boise Cascade, said a plan needs to be put together to serve forests, the public and endangered species and species management.
For Southern Oregon, based on partial cutting, we can serve retail, recreation and businesses with good forests, Wienke said. “We want to attract people here.”
There won’t be more timber harvest in Southern Oregon, said Dave Schott spokesman for the Southern Oregon Timber Industries Association. There is no will by the president or agency heads to increase harvest. The BLM has lost 39 people in this area, because there is more success in the Willamette Valley. We grow 80 billion feet of timber per year, but not harvest any of it. We create 8 or 9 direct jobs and 8 to 9 indirect per million board harvested.
“We need a national policy to use our natural resources,” Schott said.

Unbelievable questions posed and need to be resolved moving forward in the changing health care model, said Bill Thorndike, who led the Healthcare reform segment.

For business, healthcare is about cost. Two or three decades ago it was a negligible cost and now it is major
Right now spend $2.7 trillion, 17 percent of gross domestic product, per year, said Roy Vinyard, the CEO at Asante.
There are 600,000 uninsured Oregonians. Medicare reimburses 80 percent of cost of service and Medicaid covers 70 percent.
“The difference is made up by you,” Vinyard said.
Chronic diseases encompasses 84 percent of healthcare costs in the U.S.
In Southern Oregon we are growing older faster than the rest of Oregon and the U.S. He said 54% of patients pay through Medicare, 15% Medicaid, 7% self-insured and 24% through commercial insurance, which makes up for uninsured.

Jefferson Regional Health Alliance project coordinator Anne Alftine said her organization is an incubator, a network support organization, a learning community and seeks grants to operate.
The organization’s primary efforts deal with end of life, health information exchange, mental health and primary care integration and healthcare reform.

“We are moving in the right direction in many ways,” State Rep. Peter Buckley said. “The recession has given urgency to make changes. I believe the initiatives are the right ones. Fixing PERSs in the right way.”
He said the more teachers need to be hired and to rebuild staffing levels.

We have not addressed difficulties in implementing the initiatives,” said State Rep. Dennis Richardson.
PERS obligations remain staggering.
Cost for medical and healthcare continues on trajectory that will keep money from going to education, he said.
“We need to fix PERS and not tinker with it,” Richardson said. “To say it’s going to be difficult is an understatement.”

Despite all the forestry issues in the last 25 years, the potential for the economy to grow is really encouraging,” said President of the Oregon Business Council.”Keep doing what you’re doing locally.”

We have reinvented ourselves. We realize (forestry) is a national issue and we’re working with governor.” Jackson County Commissioner Don Skundrick said.

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    Greg Stiles

    Covering the Southern Oregon business and economy since 2001. Read Full
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