Monday, February 23, 2009

Oregon Dreaming

Oregon has always held a special place in the hearts of westward seeking Americans, even Californians, but at the present time its economy is tanking, as this article notes, and rebuilding might be hampered by the state’s excessive regulation, which California has been emulating.

An excerpt.

“There is something about Oregon that ignites something close to poetic inspiration, even among the most level-headed types. When I asked Hank Hoell recently about the state, he waxed on about hiking the spectacular Cascades, the dreamy coastal towns and the rich farmlands of the green Willamette Valley.

"Oregon," enthused Hoell, president of LibertyBank, the state's largest privately owned bank, from his office in Eugene, "is America's best-kept secret. If quality of life matters at all, Oregon has it in spades. It is as good as it gets. It's just superb."

“As developer Shelly Klapper, a rare skeptic in the Beaver State, reminded me: "This is a state that buys its own hype."

“Hype or not, however, Oregon is hurting – something that's clear to even the most self-respecting narcissist. Over the past year, Oregon's economy has fallen off a cliff just about as fast as any state in the union.

“A year ago, things seemed very different. Sunbelt boom states like California, Arizona and Nevada were already heading into deep recession, but green Oregon seemed oddly golden. Both its small cites and one big town, Portland, were outperforming the national norms. Oregonians saw their state as better – not only in terms of green and good, but also in terms of basic job growth.

“But since last winter, Oregon's unemployment rate has soared from barely 5.5% to well over 8%, the sixth worst in the nation. Indeed, according to a recent projection by the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), Oregon's jobless rate could reach close to 10% by the end of the year.

“Well into 2010, Oregon's overall economy will shrink more rapidly than the nation's as a whole, notes UCSB forecaster Bill Watkins. He traces a sharp downturn there to many factors, including one of the toughest regulatory regimes in North America.

“In tough times, companies generally expand in localities that are friendly to commerce – say, states like Texas or nearby Idaho. Few would rate Oregon highly in that regard.”