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OBI Releases Inaugural Oregon Competitiveness Book

The Oregon Business and Industry Research and Education Foundation has released the inaugural Oregon Competitiveness Book, a collection of more than 50 indicators of economic competitiveness, from per-capita personal income to public school performance. For each indicator, the Oregon Competitiveness Book ranks Oregon among the 50 states.

As a companion to the Oregon Competitiveness Book, OBI has created a web page that provides context and analysis. The page sorts Oregon Competitiveness Book data into 11 categories, including business climate, taxation, wages and income, population and workforce, GDP and exports, and more. For each category, the web page provides trend information, where available, as well as additional data from Oregon Competitiveness Book source material and elsewhere. Visitors to the web page can read and download the Oregon Competitiveness Book as well.

What do the Oregon Competitiveness Book and companion site show? They describe a state that has a great deal of work to do if it wishes to remain competitive. Oregon is exceptional in some areas, including quality of life, technology and innovation. But it is exceptionally uncompetitive in others. State and local taxes are among the nation’s highest for individuals and businesses, for example. And its regulatory environment is ranked among the country’s most stifling.

Go here to visit the Oregon Competitiveness Book web page.

Policy and Rulemaking Updates

Hasty Rulemaking for Complex Recycling Law

In 2021, the Legislature passed the Plastic Pollution and Recycling Modernization Act (RMA), which imposes extended liabilities on producers for the lifecycles of their products and packaging. While such extended producer responsibility (EPR) programs are common in Europe, they are relatively new in the United States. Several other states either have adopted or are considering them.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is conducting the extensive rulemaking needed to implement Oregon’s program by the July 1, 2025 target set by law. OBI and others have worried since the onset of rulemaking that the process is moving too fast for producers, recyclers, waste haulers and consumers to plan for the massive changes the program will create. Such concerns were heightened recently by the release of a draft plan covering more than 200 pages that details producers’ obligations and costs within the EPR system. DEQ has provided a very short time frame for public input on the new plan. Comments are due by May 10. If you are interested in providing comments, please email DEQ rulemaking contact Roxann Nayar at Roxy.Nayar@deq.oregon.gov or contact Scott Bruun on the OBI team at ScottBruun@oregonbusinessindustry.com.

Unfortunately, the proposal remains incomplete. It lacks the critical details stakeholders need to conduct a thorough analysis. The proposal also is complex, and affected entities need more time to evaluate logistics, costs and potential implications. Assessing the program’s effects is particularly difficult because it is new not only in Oregon, but also across the country. OBI and others will formally request a 90-day extension of the public review and comment period. It is everyone’s interest to establish the program correctly, roll it out smoothly and ensure full compliance with the intent of the underlying law.

Process Continues to Create Costly Universal Health Care Plan in Oregon

A board created by the Legislature to produce a universal health care implementation plan held an organizational meeting on April 16. According to previous estimates, a state-run universal health care program could require $22 billion in new and higher state taxes.

The Legislature established the Universal Health Plan Governance Board in 2023 by passing SB 704, which requires the board to present a framework to implement a universal health care program by Sept. 15, 2026. The board succeeds the legislative Task Force on Universal Health Care, which in 2022 endorsed an expansive single-payer health care system. It would be financed by federal funds along with $22 billion in state taxes, which is roughly equivalent to the state’s current biennial tax revenue. The task force recommended the creation of an employer payroll tax and a health care income tax.

Other states, including California and Colorado, have abandoned universal health care proposals over cost and feasibility concerns. The health plan board is scheduled to meet monthly.

$5 Million Directed to Semiconductor Child Care

On Apr. 4, Gov. Kotek signed HB 4098 into law, directing $5 million from the Oregon CHIPS Act to the creation of the CHIPS Child Care Fund, which will subsidize child-care for workers within the semiconductor supply chain. To provide the benefit, Business Oregon and the Bureau of Labor and Industries will expand the existing Apprenticeship-Related Child Care program.

The law also allocates funds to bolster Business Oregon’s Child Care Infrastructure Program, particularly in areas targeted by CHIPS Act investments. Additionally, Business Oregon will create a work group to recommend mandates for certain businesses to contribute money to the CHIPS Child Care Fund. The work group is expected to submit its findings to the Legislature by Nov. 15.

U.S. Supreme Court Lowers Discrimination Bar for Job Transfers

An April 17 U.S. Supreme Court ruling will make it easier for workers who receive job transfers to which they object to pursue job discrimination claims even if their pay is not reduced and the transfers are not demotions. The court ruled unanimously that allegedly discriminatory transfers that result in “some harm” rather than a significant injury may form the basis of a claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The case arose when a plainclothes police officer was transferred to a more supervisory role within with the St. Louis Police Department. While the officer’s rank and pay did not change, her responsibilities, perks and schedule did. According to the pleadings, her schedule became less regular, she lost her FBI status, and she no longer worked with high-ranking officials on departmental priorities.

Though the court’s decision involves only job transfers, businesses should be wary of its potential reach. Any change to an employee’s working situation that could be viewed as causing some harm – including assigning different types of work, changing a work schedule or eliminating perks – could give an employee a basis to make a discrimination claim. Businesses should increasingly assess and document the legitimate business reason for any such decision.

Nearly $30 Million Directed to Summer Learning

On April 17, Gov. Kotek signed HB 4082 into law. It allocates nearly $30 million to establish summer learning programs across Oregon and mandates the creation of a work group to recommend a long-term funding plan. The governor’s office estimates the program will serve 48,000 students this year. During the signing ceremony, the governor reiterated her intention to analyze Oregon’s education funding structure with a focus on accountability and transparency.

OBI to Present Sept. 25 Employment Law Summit

Does your business need help understanding the complexities of state and federal employment law? You’re in luck. On Sept. 25, OBI will host a full-day Employment Law Summit in Wilsonville. Legal experts will cover a variety of employment topics, including:

  • Paid Leave Oregon
  • Scheduling, overtime and break laws
  • The latest from the National Labor Relations Board
  • Reasonable accommodations under ADA
  • Navigating noncompete and nondisclosure agreements
  • Case law update

The summit is open to everyone but will be particularly helpful to HR staff and managers of small and medium-sized businesses. Continuing legal education and HR credits pending.

Registration is $175 and includes all materials and lunch.

The summit will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Wilsonville, which is located at 25425 SW 95th Ave.

Registration will open soon.

Notable News

Port Closure: The Port of Portland said April 15 it will shut down its cargo container handling operation at North Portland’s Terminal 6, saying an effort to lease the site to a third-party operator had fallen through. The terminal will continue to handle automobile imports and exports, as well as “break bulk” cargo that can’t fit in shipping containers. The port said it will stop container shipping Oct. 1 (The Oregonian). The Port has created a FAQ for affected businesses that can be viewed here. Its letter to shippers explaining the closure can be found here.

Minimum Wage: A 50-cent hike to Oregon’s minimum wage will bring baseline pay in the Portland area just to the doorstep of $16 an hour this summer. Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries announced April 16 that the minimum wage in the Portland area will rise to $15.95. In urban counties outside the Portland area, the minimum wage will be $14.70 an hour. And in rural counties, the minimum will be $13.70. The change takes effect July 1 (The Oregonian).

Kotek Staff: Gov. Tina Kotek has replaced her top three aides, whose departures were tied to First Lady Aimee Kotek Wilson’s growing role in the governor’s administration (Oregon Public Broadcasting).

Paid Leave: Per The Oregonian, Oregon is providing an incomplete, if not misleading, portrait of the effectiveness of its new paid family and medical leave program, excluding an unknown number of claims from the data it shares with the public about its application and payment process (The Oregonian).

Homeless Case: The U.S. Supreme Court will conduct oral arguments today (April 22) on a landmark Grants Pass case involving the authority of cities to limit public camping. Check out The Oregonian’s preview here.

Employment System: The Oregon Employment Department’s new website is supposed to make it easier to communicate with the agency. But some Oregonians seeking unemployment insurance benefits are frustrated over long wait times to resolve application issues and difficulties communicating with the department (Oregon Public Broadcasting).

Intel Permit: Intel secured a milestone state air quality permit April 16 for a major expansion planned at its chip factories in Hillsboro. The permit makes way for the upgrade to Intel’s manufacturing campus near Hillsboro Stadium, work the company says represents a “multibillion-dollar” investment (The Oregonian).

Intel Tool: Intel factory workers have spent months assembling an enormous manufacturing tool that weighs 150 metric tons, as much as a blue whale. It’s the most advanced lithography tool in existence, one of only two in the world, made by the Dutch company ASML (The Oregonian).

Nike Layoffs: Nike on April 19 said in a notice to government officials that it expects to part with 740 Oregon workers, all at its Washington County headquarters (The Oregonian).

Amazon Warehouse: Picture a typical huge Costco store, with aisles and aisles of products stacked to the ceiling as far as you can see. Now arrange four more Costcos of the same size around it. And now, take that enormous array of five Costcos – and stack four more on top. That’s the size of Amazon’s colossal new warehouse on the west side of Interstate 5 in Woodburn (The Oregonian).

Fire Settlement: Two Oregon timber industry companies have apparently settled their lawsuits against PacifiCorp over losses from 2020 Labor Day wildfires that they blamed on the electric utility. The suits by Freres and CW Specialty Lumber had been scheduled for a damages-phase trial in late April after their cases were consolidated into a massive class-action lawsuit against the Berkshire Hathaway-owned company (Portland Business Journal).

Notable News: Campaigns and Elections

Portland Candidates: Three political newcomers are vying to represent Portland’s west side in the Oregon House, a seat currently held by Rep. Maxine Dexter, who is running for Congress. Doctor Brian Duty, environmental lawyer Peter Grabiel and health care clinic CEO Shannon Isadore will face off in the May 21 Democratic primary for House District 33, which includes downtown and much of Northwest Portland (The Oregonian).

Clem Donation: Former Democratic lawmaker Brian Clem of Salem is preparing to spend $1 million to try to elect centrist Democrats to the Legislature, campaign finance filings show. He gave that sum April 14 to a political action committee he created in 2022 to carry out that aim (The Oregonian).

AG Candidates: Four candidates are running for Oregon attorney general and hope to get their party’s nod in the primary to compete in November to succeed Ellen Rosenblum (Oregon Capital Chronicle).

Oregonian Endorsements: The Oregonian’s endorsements for the May primary election can be found here.

OBI Member Profile: Chocolat-e

Sandy-based Chocolat-e is a new company that sells an age-old product in a fresh way.

The product is, of course, chocolate. But it’s chocolate that delivers subtlety rather than a sugar rush.

The key to understanding Chocolat-e’s approach is its best-selling product, the Discovery Box (see photo), which contains six chocolate origins, each sourced from a single cocoa farm. Four of the six use the same recipe and percentage of cocoa (72%). The remaining two are “dark” milk chocolates. Milk chocolate normally contains 30% cocoa, and these are 43% and 47%.

All of the chocolates are meant to be savored slowly and compared as a chocolate-tasting experience.

Go here to learn more.

Georgia-Pacific to Invest More than $150 Million in Mill

Georgia-Pacific on April 10 announced that it would invest more than $150 million to rebuild a paper machine at its mill in Wauna. According to a company press release, this investment will rebuild a 1965-vintage machine that makes paper for Angel Soft. The mill produces bath tissue, paper towels and napkins, and the project will help it and the overall business remain competitive in the market.

Engineering and related work has begun, and at peak construction 500 project-related workers are expected to be on site. The machine is expected to be started in 2026. The Wauna mill employs more than 700 people, and that number is not expected to increase.

Check Out OBI’s Member Benefits

OBI offers members a range of programs that can save money or help small businesses offer benefits normally available only to much larger companies. Benefit programs include:

  • HealthChoice: Helps businesses with fewer than 100 employees offer comprehensive health-care benefits through our partnership with Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon.
  • CompSAFE: Helps eligible companies enjoy workers’ compensation discounts through SAIF Corporation.
  • Fuel Program: Helps members save fuel costs through our partnership with Ed Staub & Sons.
  • ODP Business Solutions: Helps OBI members save money on office furniture, supplies and other services.
  • LegalPLUS: OBI members receive 15 minutes of free legal consulting per month from Innova Legal Advisors.

Go here to learn about all of OBI’s member benefits.