Offering options is key to creating jobs

Working together we can have a region that attracts and retains young professionals...

"A place where families and businesses thrive' is the community moniker for the City of Forest Grove, and it seems to be an aspiration for all communities in our region.

The economic news of the day is telling us there are signs that our economy is recovering, but our high unemployment rate demonstrates there is much more improvement needed. But the number of jobs isn't the only goal - we need higher-wage jobs too, since higher wages deliver a higher quality of life for our residents.

A study was done comparing our metropolitan region to other peer regions in the country. The information serves as a call to action for all of us, public sector (government), private sector (business) and all community residents, too. We need to keep private-sector job creation as our immediate and top priority.

Why? Oregon is an income tax-dependent state, which means that lower wages and incomes result in fewer resources for schools, law enforcement, parks, maintenance and other important public services that your quality of life depends on.

Portland metropolitan area residents have lower wages and incomes than in recent decades, and lower than other peer regions of the country. We have fallen behind, and unless we turn the corner, further decline may ensue.

Our region does have attributes to leverage in order to recover from the current state of affairs. These include our strategic position relative to the Pacific Rim, our varied transportation infrastructure (rail, marine, air) for products to get to global markets, and a strong entrepreneurial and small business climate.

We have many private companies to be proud of in our region - large, medium and small. We need to keep them here and help them grow here, employing you and your neighbors.

All thriving regions in our country depend on major anchor companies. For example, Intel alone employs over 15,000 workers and uses many local companies to manufacture and distribute its products and support its operations in Oregon. There is a dependency between large and small companies in our region. While small companies employ a majority of people, small companies alone cannot carry the region - we need a healthy mix of large and small businesses.

But what does it take to have such a healthy mix?

Many in the business and economic development community sum it up in one word: choice. Location choice and land use is often where the work of Metro, your regional government, and economic development intersects.

That choice is generally why we Metro councilors hear so much from business groups during our urban growth boundary decision-making. It's helpful to hear from site selectors and economic development experts about the latest trends, which local companies are expanding and what kinds of companies from elsewhere are looking to take root here.

And I know from our conversations that you want more in your community, better funding for education, more parks and improved transit while also having as much money as possible in your pocketbook to care for yourself, your family and your future.

Looking ahead, good jobs are not a given. Having a good quality of life is not a given either. The public sector and the private sector must keep working together, striving to cultivate that mix of businesses, large and small. Working together, we can have a region that attracts and retains young professionals seeking employment in sectors that thrive, like technology, finance, health care and energy -- sectors that can and do provide high-wage jobs.

Having a wonderful area to live in, with a network of parks, trails and natural areas helps too.

As a Metro councilor, I will continue to do what I can to help our region provide for good jobs now and in the future, with large companies and small companies, while providing significant protection for the valuable farms and forestlands that are essential to our economy and define the character of our region.

- Kathryn Harrington is the Metro Councilor for District 4, which includes western Washington County. Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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