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No time to waste in reducing barriers to business growth

If Oregon finds a balance between process and timeliness, we might create the jobs we need.

These days it seems almost every elected official in Oregon says job creation is his or her top priority. That's understandable in a state with an unemployment rate still above 10 percent and an economy that in many sectors seems shakier than a year ago.

Turning pronouncements into policies isn't easy, but we think local, state and federal leaders can stimulate employment growth by cutting the time it takes to wade through government regulations.

One immediate way to accomplish that would be to begin an audit of the rules regulating business development to determine whether they inhibit or encourage private-sector job growth.

We have some hope following Oregon Attorney General John Kroger's recent hiring of Portland attorney Fred Granum. Kroger told the Portland Tribune earlier this month that Granum was brought on board to work with the business community, the governor's office, the attorney general's office and the Legislature to help reform laws and regulations that discourage economic growth.

Granum should be a man in a hurry. And not because his position is only budgeted to last for 18 months.

Quick action by Granum, Kroger and the governor's office can serve as economic stimulus in a state that typically sees years go by before public review, environmental impact statements and citizen-involvement processes are completed.

If Oregon finds the appropriate balance between process and timeliness, we might have a real chance to create the jobs that this state needs.

We encourage Kroger and Gov. John Kitzhaber - both noted environmentalists - to show that it's possible to protect the environment and public interest while also cutting back on onerous rules and regulations that inhibit the economy.

The same effort should be duplicated at the local level.

We strongly suspect most local communities and county agencies have processes that end up delaying job creation. We'd encourage them to follow the lead of Hillsboro, which has learned to expedite construction and development projects, without sacrificing safety, the environment or community standards.

Forest Grove recently took a good step by adding the city's economic development director to the planning review process to serve as an in-house advocate for businesses looking to locate or expand in the city.

And in Washington County, Commission Chair Andy Duyck announced in his recent State of the County address that he's asking for a major overhaul of the development and permit process, which he described as 'unnecessarily complicated.'

We share his view that 'reinventing' government's response to business expansion is a key to facilitating 'job creation and economic recovery.'