Oregon leaders gather to focus on economy

Update: Governor says jobs being created

Oregon's elected and business leaders met to discuss the economy Monday amid signs that it is slowly recovering but still lags behind much of the rest of the nation.

The annual Oregon Business Plan Leadership Summit will continue Tuesday at the Oregon Convention Center. During his keynote address, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber said jobs are being created because the 2011 Oregon Legislature approved the plan adopted at last year's summit. It called for reforming government spending practices, higher education and health care, and focusing on jobs programs.

"Lost in the headlines about the European debt crisis and the failed Super Committee is the fact that we are creating jobs in Oregon. So far this year we have created over 18,000 jobs - and we are still working hard to meet the Oregon Business Plan goal of 25,000 jobs by the end of the year," Kitzhaber said.

Kitzhaber also laid out five goals he wants to see included in the business plan. They are: creating and retaining economic activity and family wage jobs while reducing the use of carbon-based products and restoring the natural environment; expand the manufacturing sector to reduce the need to import goods and services; minimizing the export of raw materials and maximizing the export of value added products and advanced manufactured products; minimize the need for imported energy; and keeping capital circulating in the state through local sourcing and supply chains.

"While it won't be easy, I am optimistic about Oregon's future. With you help, we can weather this economic challenge, and we can do it without losing our sense of community, without losing our commitment to one another, and emerge stronger and more united that where we began,' Kitzhaber said

Other scheduled participants include Oregon U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, the presiding officers of the Oregon Legislature, Pacific Power President Pat Reiten and John Mohlis, executive secretary of the Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council.

• Click here to read the summit's 'Oregon Playbook.'

The gathering comes just days after the Portland Business Alliance and a number of other business-oriented organizations released a report that found the Portland area's economy has improved since 2009, when it bottomed out during the most recent recession. Although regional employment is currently growing faster than the national average, a higher percent of Portland area workers lost their jobs during the recession, says the report, 'A Check-Up on the Portland-Region's Economic Health.'

The summit is co-sponsored by the Oregon Business Council. Its president, Duncan Wyse, agrees the recovery is being helped by the 'Turn Around Plan' adopted at last year's summit.

'The governor, Legislature and business community have all worked hard to change the direction of the state,' says Wyse.

According to Wyse, many of the discussions at the summit will focus on how well the legislative reforms and initiatives are being implemented. In fact, the theme of this year's gathering is, 'Time to Deliver.'

High-tech future

The summit will also discuss the conditions of industries deemed vital to the state's economy, including forest products, high-tech manufacturing and sustainable development. Scheduled to participate in the reviews are: Paul Harlan, vice president the Collins Companies, a leading wood products firm; Nicholas Fowler, chairman and chief executive officer of Perpetua Power Source Technologies; and Russ Hoeflich, Oregon state director of The Nature Conservancy,

One goal of the summit is to determine whether any new legislation related to the economy should be submitted to the 2012 Legislature, which begins in February.