Economic work is far from done in Oregon

With the state's overall economy exhibiting improvement, now isn't the time to be passive

The Oregon Leadership Summit was launched four years ago at a time when the state, along with the nation, was in an economic crisis that threatened the livelihood of citizens, businesses and public institutions.

The outgrowth of the summit was the Oregon Business Plan, a strategic effort that sought to put the state's economy back on its feet and point Oregon forward.

In the past four years, stability has been restored in Oregon's economy and in many public sectors, such as K-12 school funding. Considerable credit can be given to the role that the Oregon Business Plan played in this recovery.

Plan has right priorities

But when elected officials join business and community leaders from throughout the state today at the Oregon Convention Center for the fifth annual leadership summit, it will be time to take the next step forward. And this effort may prove to be the most difficult.

Quite simply, it's easier to mobilize committed volunteers when times are tough, but far harder - particularly among business leaders - when good times have returned.

We think this is the most critical moment for leadership from Oregon's elected, business and community leaders.

It also is a most important time for Oregon to make wise, focused monetary and leadership investments in several outcomes: Education for young and working Oregonians; increased investments in strategic transportation efforts to ease congestion, improve safety and spur employment; and a focus on sustainable business, community and livability practices.

We are glad to see that these topics are among the priorities of the Oregon Business Plan.

The business plan calls for:

n Reforming and investing in education, from preschool to graduate school

n Investing in an innovative economy

n Providing for stable and adequate funding for public services

n Increasing access to affordable health care

n Improved investments in transportation and land use

The summit also will place significant attention on sustainability practices that can improve Oregon's economy, environment and communities. Such a concentrated effort can help define and propel the state's economic future, not only nationwide but globally.

The summit is an opportunity for an update on the Portland Regional Business Plan, which is focused locally on many of the same priorities.

Maintain passion to improve

Plans, however, are merely words without the continued engagement, commitment and investment of elected, business and community leaders.

And sadly, over the past few years, as Oregon's economy has improved, it appears that there has been a bit less passion and noticeable involvement from leaders.

We understand this, yet find it troubling.

While the state's overall economy is beginning to achieve some success, now is not the time to relax.

Rather, this is an opportunity to build on that momentum - by leading, thinking ahead and making strategic investments in future outcomes that will improve Oregon for all Oregonians and reduce the impact of future downturns.

So today, Oregon's leaders should not only listen to speeches and politely applaud, but ask out loud: 'What can I do to make a difference now in Oregon's future, who else needs to know and who else can I get involved?'