BIZTIPS - December 16, 2007

Biz Tips: Onward and Upward for Oregon's Economy
Sunday, Dec. 16, 2007
By Art Hill

Economic projections are notoriously outdated before the ink dries. But economists at the Oregon Employment Department aren't a bit concerned. They've been busy as Santa's elves working on a new 10-year forecast. Released on November 28, the forecast is presented in several articles on their award-winning website, www.qualityinfo.org.

The exciting thing about the report is that it's actually pretty boring. But as economist Art Ayre says, "Boring is good." The reason? The best environment for sustained economic growth is stability.

When they ran their computer models, finished their charts and graphs, and tidied up all the loose ends, the economists concluded that Oregon will add nearly a quarter-million jobs between now and 2016. Like any good economist, Ayre made it clear that there's nothing certain about national and international events that could swing the forecast up or down, but the department's numbers offer an important baseline.

What can we learn from the reports? Each of us will draw conclusions based on our own industry and experience. For example, it is no surprise that a 45% increase in Oregonians over the age of 65 will drive explosive growth in healthcare jobs. But we also know that training and skills for some of those jobs will change with the growing use of internet-enabled remote diagnosis, continuous monitoring, and other benefits seeded by the recent $20 million FCC award for telehealth expansion in Oregon.

Similarly, while the natural resource (mining, logging) and manufacturing sectors will continue to decline slightly or at best remain flat statewide, local economies will see more dramatic shifts - for better or worse. For example, manufacturing statewide is projected to grow at only 1%. But manufacturing jobs in Region 13 (Baker, Union, and Wallowa counties), could grow at four times the statewide rate with wood products, RV, bronze, and other local manufacturers leading the way.

Other lessons from the numbers include the importance of even a small number of new jobs to rural areas. If a city has 100 people working in manufacturing, then a new company with just 10 employees is a gain of 10% - ten times the statewide average!

It's also important to look at high wage jobs, since they create a disproportionate share of the payroll dollars that circulate in communities. Management jobs and skilled trades are perfect examples. Investments in education and training for these come back in above-average local spending, taxes, and economic growth.

Ayer and the rest of his team are hoping that we will read these forecasts thoughtfully and apply them carefully. For example, growth of only 11% seems low for the "Information" industry, but this industry includes newspapers and other traditional media. The growth projection for "Business and Professional Services" is nearly twice that (21%). That's where you'll find programmers and other information industry professionals at the high end of both growth and income projections.

It's hard to find a group that won't be directly effected by these numbers. The lives of company owners, educators, independent contractors, and individual employees will change dramatically as our state's economy grows and shifts. Mr. Ayer may not have a crystal ball, but his team does have a great track record of getting it right. Check their website, e-mail them your questions, or phone their local analyst for more details.


Content © 2007 East Oregonian