Good morning. I’m pleased to join you here today to further our regional conversation on how to leverage innovation, research, and development for a more prosperous Oregon.
Getting back people back to work isn’t something that we just talk about here in the State of Oregon. It’s something that we’re actually doing, and we’re working hard to do it in ways that are about more than simply getting our economy back to where it used to be.
We often hear the phrase “economic recovery,” but we here today know that recovery is not going to be good enough for Oregon to be competitive in the 21st century. Economic recovery suggests that we’re going to go back to doing the things that we did in the past. We don’t need economic recovery; we need to continue and accelerate the economic reinvention that’s already happening throughout the state.
It’s through economic reinvention that we ensure an enduring prosperity reaches people in all corners of the state. It’s how we will reach our ambitious goals to improve energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and train a workforce that’s ready for the jobs of the future. It’s how we’ll raise the per capita income of Oregonians above the national average.
This reinvention is already under way throughout Oregon – emerging from our entrepreneurs, our sector clusters, our university research centers. It’s a wave of innovation coming out of places like Prineville and Boardman and Corvallis, and from people like you. And, frankly, it’s one of our best opportunities and hopes for the future because it’s locally driven and based on our state’s natural strengths – strengths including our solid base in agriculture, forestry, and advanced manufacturing … our promising research and development and commercialization initiatives … our location on the Pacific rim, with access to burgeoning world markets … and our exports that include not only materials and products, but also human capital and expertise.
For innovation to thrive, we must have a strong foundation. Since taking office in January 2010, we’ve closed a $3.5 billion budget gap and balanced our state budget, and we did so civilly, without tearing the state apart like they did in Wisconsin. We’ve increased access to capital and streamlined regulations, while taking steps to make our state government more nimble and smaller. We’ve built local infrastructure. We’ve developed new strategies to promote business equity and opportunities for small and emerging businesses. And we’ve created a network of Regional Solutions centers dedicated to local economic priorities.
From all this effort, here’s what we’re seeing. Our unemployment rate is near a three year low. In the last 18 months, we’ve created 25,000 jobs in Oregon, and more than 13,000 jobs in the last four months alone. We had the second fastest growing economy of any state in the nation in 2011, prompting Forbes Magazine to name Oregon one of the Top Ten States in America for doing business. We’re also ranked the number one location for manufacturing, number two for the lowest tax rates on new investments, and one of the five top states for the lowest overall business tax burdens in the United States.
All of this is good and promising news, but we can’t pretend that there aren’t still plenty of challenges ahead or that our gains have been spread equally around the state. Too many parts of Oregon are still struggling with double-digit unemployment. We need more family wage jobs. We have to maintain and even increase our momentum to ensure that all Oregonians have a more prosperous future.
That’s why the theme of this conference is so apt: rising to the challenge acknowledges that our work is far from over, while reminding us that as a state and as a region, we have what it takes to see this reinvention through, starting with our work in the clean economy field, a growing sector that already employs more than 500,000 people along the West Coast and is predicted to triple in size to $147 billion by 2020.
Earlier this year, at the Pacific Coast Collaborative Leaders Forum, I joined with regional leaders in signing the 2012 Jobs Actions Plan. We reaffirmed that clean economy collaboration and low-carbon innovation are central to boosting our region’s competitive strategy, and we committed to a plan that creates up to 1 million more jobs in the next decade through new, measurable initiatives to retrofit state-owned buildings, purchase advanced technology fleet vehicles, and implement energy standards to incentivize the private sector and advanced manufacturing.
Earlier this summer, I released a new 10-Year Energy Plan for Oregon, a state-specific approach that is as dedicated to job creation as it is setting ambitious but achievable energy goals. It’s driven by the fact that the cleanest form of energy is the energy we don’t use, but also by the economic opportunities of scaling up our investment in energy efficiency, natural resource restoration, and technologies, products, and services that improve efficiency and promote conservation.
These large-scale efforts are supported by day-to-day, on-the-ground programs dedicated to bolstering Oregon’s economic progress. I already mentioned one – Regional Solutions – which operates solutions centers across the state that help remove barriers and support local economic initiatives and development. They work by bringing together businesses and community leaders to identify and pursue local community and economic development priorities.
There’s also our STEP program, which gives small businesses access to training and capacity-building, and helps them attend trade shows and trade missions, to increase their export opportunities. So far we have about 90 businesses participating in the program, and as they’re able to increase the value of volume of their exports, it supports our overall goal to double the value of Oregon exported products and services over the next decade.
Next month, I’ll be part of a delegation to China and Japan that includes government representatives and established Oregon businesses, but also new start-ups looking to expand their markets, and heads of research and commercialization centers promoting their work and their products. In particular, as the result of collaboration between local entrepreneurs and investors and Chinese institutions, the delegation will have a significant focus on exporting Oregon’s expertise in sustainable building products and design. Any of you who might have an interest in the mission should speak to staff at Business Oregon.
Our focus on innovation is not just about the specific programs or initiatives, but also about changing our culture. A culture of innovation, focused on infrastructure that helps us meet our goals; a mindset that we need to reduce barriers while accelerating partnerships; a framework for state and local governments to work collaboratively with the private sector and the educational sector – these are what Oregon will need to thrive in the 21st century economy.
By infrastructure, I mean not only core infrastructure like the CRC and other bridge and road projects, but also infrastructure like energy efficient buildings, transmission lines, water projects, and a smart grid. Resources that we counted on in the past have become much more scarce and uncertain. I’m working with treasurer Ted Wheeler and his counterparts in Washington and California to develop a West Coast infrastructure exchange that will seek to support projects of regional significance with institutional capital. If we get this right, if we do this right, we can become less dependent on the vagaries of infrastructure funding from Washington, D.C., and begin to attract outside capital and private investors who see the opportunity and potential profit in this new emerging sector.
And by collaboration, I mean that we’ll need to continue doing something that makes us a little unique as state. In Oregon, we know that job creation and economic recovery is not a partisan issue. It shouldn’t be a political football. Are there going to be differences between business and labor, between Republicans and Democrats? Absolutely. But creating jobs and moving our economy forward simply should not be one of them, nor should it be to cast this as a false choice between sound environmental stewardship and creating jobs. What we’ve seen in this state over the last 18 months is Republicans and Democrats coming together, putting their differences aside, stepping up to the challenge. We’ve seen the private sector and the public sector partnering in new ways, and in new directions, because we share a common vision for the State of Oregon, and we’re acting on that vision in new and measurable ways.
This will be especially important as we approach the next biennial budget and legislative session. In preparation for this, our research universities, Oregon Inc., and several regional initiatives are developing ambitious proposals to advance our economy of innovation. I support these efforts, and my team is working through the state budget process while trying to harness the enthusiasm and creativity so that we can, as a state, develop a coherent and integrated approach. I will be recommending a significant increase to Oregon Inc.’s budget and, just as importantly, dedicating resources that help us harmonize these various efforts to create a stronger Oregon economy.
At the same time, there are also the economic advantages that we’re pursuing in education and health care. We understand that a quality workforce is absolutely essential for survival and prosperous advance in the 21st century, and we are for the very first time aligning funding and governance across the entire educational spectrum, from early childhood, to K through 12, to post-secondary education and training. We’re investing in better learning outcomes for students and adult learners, and we’re focused on early childhood education so that every child will be ready to learn when they get to school, before they get to school, and reading at level in the third grade because we recognize that early educational success of children is probably the cheapest, most efficient, and best job training program that we could possibly put together.
We’re also taking on out-of control medical inflation, which could provide real advantages for Oregon businesses both large and small. With the transformation of our Medicaid program, we are expecting to save state and federal government about 11 billion dollars over the next decade, and if we can expand that to the private sector, this could give us a phenomenal competitive advantage right here in the state of Oregon.
Our work, in other words, is focused on a few critical fronts, and we’re making remarkable progress. Oregon was been dealt as tough a hand, I think, as any state in the nation, but Oregonians in the last 18 months have demonstrated their ingenuity, their resiliency, and their entrepreneurial spirit. We have the near-lowest unemployment rate we’ve had in three years. We have been named one of the top ten states in which to do business. We’ve balanced our budget. We’ve improved our credit rating. We’ve made state government more efficient. We’re investing in better outcomes for children and in better health care results. All in all, Oregon is creating an environment in which 21st century companies can grow, adapt, and thrive.
We should be proud of what we’ve done together over the last year and a half, and we should recommit ourselves to do better, much better, in the next 18 months. I’ve often said that somewhere in America there needs to be a state that demonstrates that we have the capacity to weather our toughest challenges without losing our sense of community, without losing our commitment to one another. I think Oregon’s doing that, and I think it’s taking us in a new and innovative direction that will help us rebuild our economy while becoming stronger and more united along the way.
So for those of you already living, working, and innovating in Oregon, thank you very much for being here and let me know how I can help. For those of you from elsewhere, please consider joining us – investing, researching, developing, collaborating – as we pivot to our new economy. Thank you very much.