County outlook brightens
Washington County remains the 'economic engine' of the state of Oregon
Although we are still affected by recession - still afflicted by budget cuts, foreclosures and downsizing - there is reason for our cautious optimism.
Highlights of 2011
Washington County is often called the 'economic engine' of the state, and the record shows we continued to play this role throughout the recession. Our employers contributed $12.7 billion in payroll in 2010, or about one in every five payroll dollars in Oregon. Although not immune from the recession, Washington County generated 17 percent of the new jobs in Oregon between 2009 and 2010 and our unemployment rate is among the lowest.
This performance was helped in no small way by some of the county's - and state's - leading employers. The Strategic Investment Program agreement of 2005 among Intel, the City of Hillsboro, State of Oregon and Washington County paved the way for a significant portion of recent job growth. Other expansion and business-location decisions contributed to this outcome also, including those made by Nike, Columbia Sportswear, Genentech, SolarWorld, Kaiser Permanente and others.
Aloha-Reedville Study and Livable Community Plan
Working together with residents, nearby cities and special districts serving the Aloha-Reedville community, Washington County continues to lead a study that would re-plan this urban unincorporated area. The effort, funded by federal, regional and County dollars, is focused on improving livability and economic vitality.
Challenges in 2011
Tough financial times for local governments
Local governments throughout Oregon and Washington County have experienced unprecedented financial issues recently. Even during good economic times, Washington County has prided itself on having one of the lowest employee-to-population ratios of any county in Oregon. Nonetheless, 73 positions have been eliminated since 2009. Prudent use of reserves and restrained spending have kept this number from being larger.
Goals for 2012
Enhanced Sheriff's Patrol District Levy Replacement
Voters within the urban unincorporated area will see a ballot measure in November 2012 to replace funding for the Enhanced Sheriff's Patrol District supported by an expiring local option levy. The status quo proposal would maintain the current level of patrol services consistent with population growth over five years.
Southwest Corridor Plan
Metro was recently awarded a $2 million federal grant to analyze alternatives for improving transit along Barbur Boulevard/Highway 99W and Interstate 5. This analysis will be part of a larger transportation plan focusing on roadway, bike, pedestrian and freight networks. The grant resulted from shared prioritizing among state, regional and local partners.
Fairgrounds master plan implementation
Several projects are underway to revitalize the 101-acre fairgrounds property in Hillsboro. The City of Hillsboro is building 'Veterans Drive,' which will improve access. Fundraising has begun to build a 'Veterans Plaza.' Finally, the County and City have partnered to identify funding for a new exhibit hall that could one day improve the annual Fair event and better support the local economy.
Transportation planning and new MSTIP projects
The County is just beginning an 18-month process to update our 2002 Transportation Plan. A new project list for the Major Streets Transportation Improvement Program is also in the works. MSTIP has been hailed across the state and region as a smart and balanced response to growth.
As the saying goes, 'nothing happens by accident.' Our situation today is a result of many decisions made by businesses, governments, non-profits and individuals, each seeking to improve our lot over time. Washington County continues to strive for a 'collaborative community' where each of our organizations, private or public, reach out to one another to build this better future.