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With the start of a new administration and legislative session, Oregon Business & Industry (OBI) and the Oregon State Chamber of Commerce asked hundreds of small employers to share their thoughts on Oregon’s business climate. The results are alarming. Oregon’s local businesses feel overtaxed and overwhelmed by rapidly changing legislation. And to a stunning degree, they don’t think lawmakers care about their success.

The survey, conducted in late January and early February, received responses from more than 440 small businesses throughout the state and in a wide variety of industries. Almost without exception, participants do not believe that Oregon’s business climate, which they rate poorly, will improve in the coming year. And by a wide margin, they believe lawmakers don’t care about the success of their businesses and that state agencies are more interested in finding fault than helping them comply.

The conditions affecting small employers, which include soaring state and local taxation and proliferating regulations, require urgent attention by state and local leaders.

The survey’s findings include:

  • 74% of respondents say that regulations affecting business change so frequently that it is hard to keep up with what they’re supposed to do.
  • 71% of respondents say that state agencies seem more interested in finding wrongdoing (even when there isn’t any) than in helping businesses like theirs comply with regulations.
  • Only 18% of respondents believe that state lawmakers care about the success of their businesses.
  • Only 48% of respondents feel comfortable calling a state agency for help or clarification about a regulation.
  • 41% of respondents say they’re considering closing, selling or moving their businesses because of taxes, Oregon’s regulatory environment or a combination of the two.
  • On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being “great,” more than 80% of survey participants rate Oregon’s business climate below a six.
  • Only 7% of respondents believe the state’s business climate will improve in the coming year.
  • The top issues facing respondents’ businesses, in descending order, are increased labor costs, taxation, increased supply costs, and laws and regulations around employment/HR.

“Oregon is at an inflection point,” said Angela Wilhelms, president and CEO of OBI. “Unless leadership in Salem starts taking the concerns of employers seriously, innovators and job creators increasingly will look to grow elsewhere, taking opportunities for Oregonians with them.”

“Sadly, these results were not surprising to us,” added Wilhelms. “Employers have faced and continue to navigate unprecedented challenges, but these challenges are not solely the product of one-time events. They include systemic problems rooted in an indifference held by far too many toward the health and well-being of our state’s private sector employers.”

To help turn this around, lawmakers, agency policymakers and local government leaders need to ensure that impacts on Oregon’s local employers are taken into account when new laws or regulations are enacted. A range of solutions to the frustrations held by these small business owners and Oregon’s overarching competitiveness crisis can be found in OBI’s Growth and Innovation Roadmap.

Go here to view a full slide deck of survey responses.

OBI is a statewide association representing businesses from a wide variety of industries and from each of Oregon’s 36 counties. OBI is the state affiliate for the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Retail Federation. OBI’s 1,600 member companies, more than 80% of which are small businesses, employ more than 250,000 Oregonians.

The Oregon State Chamber of Commerce represents the state’s 84 professional Chambers of Commerce and the 27,000 local businesses that are Chamber of Commerce members around Oregon. OSCC Chamber of Commerce members are in every corner of the state from Portland to Klamath Falls and Coos Bay to Pendleton.