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Intel warns business alliance: state must value education

Executive says microchip giant might have to go out of state to find new employees

A high-ranking Intel executive delivered a scathing critique of Oregon's education system Tuesday morning at the annual Portland Business Alliance meeting, saying her company has to hire most new employees from out of state because so few potential local workers have college degrees.

'Oregon is 49th in the percent of high school students who go to college,' Renee James, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's software and services group, told alliance members. 'We can do better than that.'

According to James, Intel's planned $6 billion expansion in Hillsboro and Aloha facilities will add 1,000 new employees in the next few years. Most of those new workers will be from outside Oregon, James said, because the state apparently does not value education enough.

'We need to change that,' James said. 'And we can change that.'

James quoted the satiric 'Portlandia' IFC TV series to help prove her point. The show's opening scene claimed that Portland was 'where young people go to retire.'

'Portland should be where young people go to live, grow, work and eventually retire,' James said to a smattering of applause.

James told the audience of business people and community leaders at the Oregon Convention Center that change must begin in the Oregon's elementary schools, with young students taught the importance of earning college degrees. Intel, which requires all employees to have at least a four-year degree, pays three times the average Oregon wage to most of its employees, James said.

Also during the gathering, Alliance Chairman Roger Hinshaw described a series of initiatives by the organization persuading policymakers to make private sector job creation a top priority. Initiatives include commissioning a study that showed Portland-area wages had fallen below the national average for decades.

'We raised a lot of eyebrows and changed the conversation,' said Hinshaw, president of the Bank of America of Oregon and Washington.

In July, Hinshaw will be replaced as alliance chairman by J. Issac, a Portland Trail Blazers vice president.