Leadership Summit Panelists Highlight Opportunities for Manufacturing
By Karen Vineyard, chair, OBI board of directors
I had the distinct pleasure of moderating a manufacturing panel discussion earlier this month during the 19th Annual Oregon Leadership Summit. This year’s theme was Building Opportunity, which set the stage our panelists’ discussion about ways we can build opportunities for Oregon’s manufacturing employers and workers.
As we all know, the last two years have been incredibly challenging for many industries, but for those in manufacturing, the ongoing impacts of the pandemic continue to threaten their operations. In particular, supply chain issues are only exacerbated by ongoing and rising inflation, which drives up raw product and packaging costs. One of the panelists, Karla Chambers, co-owner and vice president of Stahlbush Island Farms in Corvallis (and a 2021 OBI Oregon Visionary Award recipient), said inflation is the top challenge her business is facing today, an issue that certainly is not unique to Karla’s operations.
Alicia Chapman, CEO and owner of Willamette Technical Fabricators, also emphasized the stress of surging material costs and supply chain issues on the sector, especially for steel. Alicia also stressed how many manufacturing operations are seeking to develop a diverse workforce and implement new technology to keep Oregon manufacturing competitive. This dynamic is particularly important as labor costs have increased and the labor market has become more competitive.
Another panelist, Seth Sherry, economic development director for the City of Albany and president of the Oregon Economic Development Association, focused on the challenges that businesses are facing due to a lack of developable land. This is a statewide problem and Oregon is losing good investments because of it. Seth also discussed business retention challenges. As many of our OBI members know, the increased tax and regulatory burdens that businesses face are becoming insurmountable barriers to continued operations for many. A 2021 study by Ernst & Young for OBI showed that the cumulative state business tax burden is set to rise 41% due to new taxes passed by the Legislature in 2019, and it’s even higher in cities—like Portland—where additional local taxes were also levied. These increases are part of why the vast majority of accountants in Oregon have clients actively considering leaving the state, according to an OBI survey.
We know that Oregon’s $33 billion manufacturing sector is one of our state’s strongest and most productive industries, but we are only as strong as the opportunities we have for continued success and growth. A recent report on the state of manufacturing in Oregon found that a mere 10 percent increase in manufacturing output would support an additional 66,000 jobs and generate $800 million in annual state and local government revenue. We can achieve this growth if we work with decisionmakers to ensure an environment where manufacturers are able to survive and thrive. That includes looking at policies relating to workforce development, land use, taxation, and other key topics.
The team at OBI looks forward to building on these conversations from the Leadership Summit and advocating for a healthy, prosperous economy during the 2022 Legislative Session and beyond. We will continue to keep our members apprised of our efforts as we seek to build a stronger, more resilient Oregon.