The volume, speed and complexity of regulatory expansion have significantly eroded Oregon’s business climate in recent years. This crisis affects large and small employers in all industries and in all parts of the state. Unless policymakers recognize the problem and work to correct it, businesses will invest and grow increasingly in other states, taking good jobs, tax revenue and prosperity with them.

Small Businesses Feel Under Siege

In early 2023, OBI surveyed hundreds of small businesses across the state. They feel overwhelmed by ever-changing regulations, and most are uncomfortable calling state agencies for help. Sadly, an overwhelming majority believe lawmakers don’t care about their businesses. A handful of notable responses appear to the right and below.

36%

“Because of Oregon’s regulatory environment, I am considering closing, selling or moving my business.”

7%

“In a year, Oregon’s business climate will be better.”

The Landscape Keeps Shifting ...
But businesses don't think lawmakers care

Fixing Oregon’s Regulatory Crisis

In preparation for the 2025 legislative session, OBI is meeting with business groups, chambers of commerce and other stakeholders to discuss regulatory challenges and develop solutions. This effort will lead to the release in fall 2024 of a set of proposals that will build on OBI’s 2023 Growth and Innovation Roadmap.

The businesses and groups with which OBI has met consistently identify the same problems with Oregon’s regulatory climate. It is, they say:

Unpredictable: New rules are hard to anticipate, and their effects often are at odds with legislative intent.

Unstable: Oregon’s regulations are constantly changing. Sometimes, individual rules are revised shortly after adoption.

Complicated: Rules often are difficult even for experts to understand. They should be written in plain English whenever possible.

Extreme: Oregon’s rules often are outliers, even among politically similar western states.

Costly: Complying with Oregon’s complex and ever-shifting rules is expensive, placing an unnecessary burden on the state’s businesses. 

The 2025 legislative agenda will focus on the following four areas: 

Culture: Oregon’s regulators should recognize the value of businesses and treat those they regulate as partners rather than enemies.

Process: In developing rules, state agencies should use consistent and transparent processes that comply with legal requirements and consider stakeholder input.

Content: Rules should comply with legislative intent, and in developing them regulators should avoid extreme solutions to simple problems.

Enforcement: Regulators should help companies operating in good faith to comply with rules, employing more carrots and fewer sticks.

Share Your Regulatory Story with OBI

Have you or your company run into a problem involving complex, shifting or unreasonably costly state or local regulations in Oregon? If so, please tell us about it. Follow the link below and share your story. Be sure to include a name and email for possible follow-up.

IN THE NEWS

May 13, 2024

Portland Development Requirements Cost Thousands of Dollars, Small Business Owners Say

Portland is unlikely to change permitting rules that mirror at least one other Pacific Northwest city, despite some small business owners saying the rules force them to spend six figures on infrastructure projects outside their business. However, the city commissioner in charge of the bureau in question said he directed employees to work with business owners to reduce development costs.

May 1, 2024

Portland Plans to Mandate Energy-Cost Disclosure in Rental Housing

In two weeks, city officials will unveil a proposed policy that would require landlords of existing duplexes and larger apartment buildings to disclose an apartment’s monthly energy costs and health and climate risks to prospective tenants – including risks associated with natural gas stoves and air-conditioning and other cooling measures.

April 25, 2024

With New Bureau, Portland Attempts to Streamline Residential, Commercial Permitting Process

The city of Portland will soon be making changes to its residential and commercial permitting process. A new bureau, Portland Permitting and Development, is intended to make the process easier and more streamlined. Preston Korst, director of governmental affairs with the Home Building Association of Greater Portland, said that the former system had been a headache for builders for years.

April 24, 2024

Controversial Linn County Chicken Ranch Put on Hold Following Permit Withdrawal

Construction plans for a large-scale facility proposing to raise 3.4 million chickens per year near Scio in Linn County, Oregon, will be put on hold. That follows a state decision to temporarily withdraw the facility’s permit ahead of a challenge that was scheduled to go on trial in early May.

April 19, 2024

Washington County gives In-N-Out Burger a key approval

In-N-Out Burger gained approval from Washington County to open a new restaurant near Beaverton. The location has been contentious due to traffic concerns. The California company has been interested in the highway location since at least 2020, but its application has been heavily contested, including going to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals, which sent it back to the county for another look.

April 1, 2024

How Oregon’s Bottle Bill Plays into the State’s Drug Crisis

Oregon’s Bottle Bill, which offers cash refunds for empty bottles and cans, was a landmark piece of legislation when it first passed in 1971. As reported in Willamette Week, critics now say the bill is fueling open-air drug markets outside return sites.

April 1, 2024

Oregon Prepares to Reboot Effort to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Oregon environmental regulators are heading back to the drawing board April 2 in their push to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel companies after a court ruled late last year that the state’s first attempt was invalid.

March 31, 2024

Drugmakers Step Up Attacks on Oregon Board Eying Price Caps

As Oregon moves closer to limiting prescription drug prices, the pharmaceutical industry has stepped up its efforts targeting the state board that could set those limits. Under a law crafted by the Legislature in 2023, the Oregon Prescription Drug Affordability Board is developing a plan for setting “upper payment limits” on how much government and commercial health plans could pay for prescription drugs the board deems too costly.

March 29, 2024

Oregon Eases ‘Burdensome’ Rules for Small Dairies

Small dairy farms across Oregon will no longer be subject to a state policy change some farmers say would’ve been too burdensome. The Oregon Department of Agriculture announced March 21 that it’s withdrawing its decision to require small dairy operations to apply for a permit usually intended for larger commercial farms.

March 25, 2024

Small Farms in Oregon Suffer as New CAFO Definitions Threaten Livelihoods

In Oregon, the landscape of small-scale farming is undergoing a seismic shift due to recent regulatory changes affecting water rights and farm operations. These changes are casting a shadow over the future of family farms and local agriculture, invoking a series of legal challenges and widespread concern among the farming community.

March 21, 2024

As Oregon Proposes New Groundwater Rules, Some Agricultural Groups Push Back

Oregon is one of many western states dealing with rapid groundwater depletion. That’s why the Oregon Water Resources Department — which is in charge of managing the state’s water supplies — is proposing some changes, mainly on how it determines if water is available to support new wells. As state officials begin holding a series of meetings across Oregon, some environmentalists and water conservationists are praising the proposed changes, while some agricultural groups are pushing back.

March 6, 2024

Oregon Court Rejects Cities’ Request to Toss Climate Rules

Cities that challenged Oregon’s new climate policies in 2022 will have to follow rules around designing more walkable neighborhoods, beefing up electric vehicle infrastructure — and more — following a court decision issued March 6. The Oregon Court of Appeals has mostly sided with the state over the wide-ranging climate rules, which are intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in cities.

Feb. 24, 2024

Several County Leaders Grill Oregon Forestry Officials after Sawmill Closures

Three sawmills have closed in Oregon within less than two months, prompting several counties’ leaders to grill state forestry officials about a plan that would limit logging in western Oregon forests.

Feb. 14, 2024

A Man Died Last Week Crossing an Intersection City Officials Pledged to Improve Six Years Ago

The project is only 60% designed. Among the reasons the city cites: “Competing policy and federal requirements for paving projects of this type have delayed our design effort.”

Jan. 31, 2024

Portland City Council Approves ‘Regulatory Relief,’ Tax Break Package to Promote Housing Construction

The Portland City Council approved a slate of new policies intended to lower the cost of building new homes, including an expansion of tax breaks for new apartment buildings subject to the city’s inclusionary zoning mandate.

Jan. 30, 2024

Portland to Waive Permit Fees for Trees Felled by January Storm

The city has waived fees for retroactive permits required to remove trees felled by the storm. However, property owners still have to apply for the permits and provide the required documentation.

Jan. 29, 2024

Small Dairies Sue Oregon over New Rules They Say Could Put Them out of Business

Last year, the Oregon Department of Agriculture changed its definition of a confined animal feeding operation, or CAFO, to include small dairy operations. That means small dairy operators soon will be subject to permitting regulations.

Jan. 28, 2024

Editorial: Portland Should Put Punitive Tree Permit Requirement on Ice

Portland is requiring homeowners to pay for retroactive tree removal permits for trees that were blown down during a recent storm. They cost $100 apiece.

Jan. 24, 2024

The City Denied a Portland Family’s Request to Chop Down a Douglas Fir. Last Week, the Tree Slammed into Their Home.

In February 2022, the city’s Urban Forestry division denied the Bonds a removal permit for the two Douglas firs. “Removal will significantly affect neighborhood character, based on the tree’s attributes, visibility of the tree to the public, or past removals of trees in the area,” the city’s letter read.

Jan. 22, 2024

Portland Tries Tax Breaks to Revive Central City, but Will it Bring Businesses Downtown?

“But McLaughlin said doing business here has become harder and harder as … small firms like his have coped with a city government that he says throws up barriers to expansion and seems indifferent to the challenges of doing business in the city.”

Jan. 11, 2024

How One of Portland’s Most Iconic Buildings Became an Eyesore

In 2017, Spokane-based developer Rob Brewster and his partners bought the building with plans to create office space and retail. Brewster blames bureaucracy for slowing down the project. City permits and fees alone cost $322,000, city records indicate.

Jan. 11, 2024

Portland City Council Looks to Boost Affordable Housing under ‘Inclusionary Zoning’ Mandate, Spars over Environmental Policies

The Portland City Council is considering a suite of changes to its housing regulations intended to drop barriers to building new apartments and affordable housing within the city. These include a “regulatory relief” package, which would relax 15 zoning and permitting requirements that developers must meet to build housing.

Jan. 10, 2024

An Old Saw Shop’s Second Life Was Delayed by Seismic Regulations

Soon after buying the Portland building, its owner learned that a planned remodel constituted a change of use, and that meant he had to make extensive seismic improvements. The building now sits empty, gathering graffiti.

Jan. 10, 2024

Washington County Sawmill Will Close Indefinitely, Eliminating 58 Jobs

Hampton Lumber said the Banks mill relies on lumber from nearby state forests and said a Habitat Conservation Plan under consideration by the Oregon Board of Forestry could reduce the size of harvests on state forests.

Nov. 29, 2023

It’s houses vs. trees on a 30-acre parcel in the heart of the Willamette Valley

Oregon’s farms and fields are becoming combat zones in the expanding war between preservation and development, Willamette Week writes. Now, with the state facing a shortage of some 140,000 houses, the tide is turning in favor of developers for the first time in 50 years.

Oct. 24, 2023

Why a 30-story Portland waterfront tower is ‘on hold’

The developer of a 30-story residential skyscraper on the Willamette said the project is indefinitely “on hold” after permitting took a long time and financing became too difficult to secure, the Portland Business Journal reports.

May 17, 2023

A low-income housing developer swears off any more Portland construction

Two years after buying a property to build a 12-unit housing complex, Michael Gregory is still waiting for approval from the city of Portland for key parts of the structure, Willamette Week reports. Frustrated by the delays, he plans to complete initial permitting and sell the lots.

Aug. 17, 2022

Task force outlines path for Oregon semiconductor competitiveness

The report released by the Oregon Semiconductor Competitiveness Task Force identifies obstacles that could prevent semiconductor manufacturers from taking advantage of CHIPS Act funds, writes Oregon Public Broadcasting. These include the state’s regulatory environment.

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