shutterstock 1542546296

OBI Vice President for Government Affairs Scott Bruun delivered the invited testimony below to the House Economic Development Committee Jan. 17:

Again, thank you for the opportunity to discuss OBI’s perspective on economic development. And let me say first that OBI is very supportive of policy measures that improve the business climate in Oregon and create jobs, careers and career advancement for Oregonians.

Properly understood, economic development is a means to an end. Economic development is a means to create pathways to opportunity.

  • From the state government perspective, economic development is often about supporting proactive policies. Enterprise zones, rural enterprise zones, the Strategic Investment Program, incentives, loans and grants: These are all important and demonstrably successful tools that the state must have to drive investments in Oregon.
  • Also from the state government perspective, economic development is sometimes about simply maintaining the playing field. Maintaining an environment where innovators, entrepreneurs and businesses of any size can go and compete and in doing so provide fantastic opportunities for working Oregonians.
  • And finally, economic development is sometimes about soberly realizing that the complex amalgam of rules, regulations, restrictions, taxes, fees, compliance hurdles and best intentions implemented by governments at every level have created roadblocks to opportunity. It’s about realizing that a competitive disadvantage for Oregon’s innovators, job creators and the people who want and need those jobs exists, and then working to fix this. This is where Oregon is today.

OBI conducted a statewide bus tour in August. More than two dozen manufacturers from Scappoose to Klamath Falls, and from Tillamook to The Dalles. We saw diverse innovators quietly going about doing amazing things for their employees, their communities and our state. All of which is worth celebrating. But we also saw significant challenges. Stop after stop, tour after tour, we heard about the challenges that these innovators face:

  1. Regulatory challenges.
  2. Tax and incentive challenges.
  3. Land use and land supply challenges.
  4. And workforce challenges, including workforce adequacy, housing and childcare challenges.

We also heard that, policy issues notwithstanding, there was a widespread perception that too many policy makers didn’t appreciate or understand what these innovators do, and that the general business climate in Oregon was deteriorating.

It’s OBI’s hope, Madame Chair and Committee, that this Legislature can take steps to start changing those perceptions. It does so by supporting important economic development tools like enterprise zones and the SIP as well as supporting new tools like an R&D tax credit and a capital investment tax credit. It does so by reducing or eliminating artificial barriers like tax structure barriers, compliance barriers, regulatory barriers. And it does so, finally, by changing perceptions, by helping people inside and outside of Oregon understand that Oregon wants your business and appreciates your business.

I’ll close by saying that you will likely spend much time this session talking about numbers, which is very important, of course. But economic development is not just a numbers game. It’s not just dollars and it’s not just jobs, although both are critical. Economic development done well is not just economic; it’s also psychological and it’s moral. It is about creating pathways to opportunity. And it’s those opportunities realized that create the sense of confident progress so important for the complete well-being of individuals aand families and communities. That sense of confident progress, widely shared, is the key ingredient necessary for Oregon to successfully address the myriad challenges we face.

Download a pdf of Bruun’s testimony here.