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Governor Kitzhaber praises wine industry for being innovative and sustainable part of Oregon economy

Keynote Address
Oregon Wine Association – January 18, 2012

Good afternoon, and thank you for the nice introduction.

The Oregon wine industry is not only a key part of our state’s economy—it’s an important part of our state identity. Oregon’s vast natural resources include soils, climate, and rainfall that together help produce some of the world’s most acclaimed wines. It’s why 420 wineries and 850 vineyards call landscapes across Oregon home – making us the third largest wine-producing state – and why Oregon wines are both critically and commercially renowned.

Reflecting our state’s values, the Oregon wine industry is also a national leader in innovative farming and winemaking practices, combining generations-old techniques with forward-thinking sustainability measures.

The industry’s contribution to our economy is just as significant. In a state where agriculture is our second largest industry, the wine-grape crop is Oregon’s leading value-added agricultural segment, contributing $2.7 billion annually to the state’s economy. In 2010, more than 13,000 people were employed in jobs related to the wine industry, with corresponding wages topping $382 million.

The spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation we see in the Oregon wine industry and in so many others Oregon industries is encouraging. An innovative economy is our best hope for Oregon’s future because it is locally-driven and – literally in the case of the wine-producing industry – locally-rooted in our strengths. To maintain and even enhance these strengths, Oregon needs a long-term business plan; an educational system that provides students and workers with advanced skills for the workplace; reliable and affordable energy; and an environment that encourages investment by lowering fixed costs such as healthcare.

We are working on all these things, and following through on them is essential to ensuring that Oregon’s economy and workforce thrives.

For example, we’ve accelerated economic development by appointing regional conveners across the state to engage business and community leaders in identifying their local job creation and community priorities. Local communities, local entrepreneurs and local customers are at the heart of Oregon’s economy and will be the foundation of our long-term recovery.

We’re working to improve the economic development and finance tools available to Oregon businesses to help them access the capital they need to grow. And we know we must revamp our tax policy so that it is more rational and equitable; adequate to invest seriously in public education and workforce development; and aligned with our long-term economic development objectives. 

For the wine industry specifically, we’ll continue our active role in helping to promote value-added production and the unique offerings of Oregon’s wine country. Last year, for example, the state approved a new Oregon “wine country” license plate, with the proceeds from plate sales designated for the Oregon Tourism Commission to promote Oregon wine and culinary tourism. I think this may have gotten hung for a little while, but I’m happy to report it’s moving along again.

We also, after a lot of work together, passed legislation that sets ground rules for the types and frequency of events that can be held at Oregon wineries. These bills did not resolve all the land use issues at hand, and we need to find lasting solutions that acknowledge the desire to diversify farm income without undermining the very industries and rural lands the state is trying to conserve. However, many different groups came together last year to get us this far, and any future work will do the same, bringing together representatives from the wine industry and the rest of the agricultural community to collaborate on long-term solutions.

Wineries are a key and growing segment of Oregon’s rural economy and our state’s economy overall. They’re also one of the more stable agricultural crops, and stability is essential for Oregon to move away from a boom/bust economic cycle that depletes our natural capital and leaves us vulnerable to fluctuations in the national and global economies.  

We must continue to develop a more sustainable economy, and industries like yours are a key part of that effort. In support of this, I recently signed a proclamation naming May 2012 “Oregon Wine Month,” encouraging all Oregonians to be more aware of and help celebrate this sector. Thank you for inviting me here today, and thank you for your work.



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