BIZTIPS - January 4, 2004

Biz Tips: “New Year with Old-Fashioned Recovery”
January 4, 2004
By Art Hill

It’s time to get comfortable writing “04” on business documents. And rather than dwell on Oregon’s 2003 economic train wreck, let’s welcome the new year with forecasts from economists including U.S. Bank’s John Mitchell who predicts job growth of 1.5 percent. The operative word here is “growth.” Even modest regional growth will be welcome as the national economy accelerates.

Where will that growth come from? Once again from small business. A recent article pointed out that during the 1991 recovery, small businesses (under 500 employees) added nearly 845,000 jobs nationwide while larger companies cut over 321,000 jobs that same year. Sure enough, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Portland District December Annual Report documents a record $215 million in SBA-assisted loans in 2003 - up 35% from 2002, with another 37% increase expected in 2004. That’s capital for expansion, and historically, expansion results in jobs. Oregon’s unemployment rate has dropped from months of historic highs around 8% to 7.6% in October and 7.3% in November. This straight-line improvement may suffer a setback or two in coming months, but right now it looks good - in some industries. According to the Governor’s “Regions at a Glance” report, health and business services, agriculture, wholesale and retail trade, hospitality, and even durable goods manufacturing should all see growth.

One sector that’s been “off the radar” in our region is the information industry. Conventional wisdom says that high tech jobs are in Portland. Well, ten years ago conventional wisdom said that high tech jobs in Washington state were in Seattle. But in December, a New York technology forum picked Spokane as one of the “seven brightest communities in the world.” The criteria? “…how communities used communication technologies and the role of local government in this new infrastructure.”

More on this opportunity next time. Meanwhile, a happy and prosperous “04” to you and yours.

Content © 2004 East Oregonian