Economic Development Vital to Our Quality of Life

Article excerpt

Byline: Jack Roberts For The Register-Guard

Eben Fodor's Dec. 11 guest viewpoint, "Lane Metro Partnership defies local goals," provides an excellent opportunity to remind people what the partnership actually does and why it is important to our community.

While Fodor claims the Lane Metro Partnership embraces "an obsolete vision for unsustainable development," we in fact are following the lead of Gov. Ted Kulongoski and his economic development strategy.

In contrast, Fodor's strategy was largely embraced by the state in the late 1990s, when many people assumed that the business cycle no longer operated and prosperity was permanent, at least in urban Oregon. Focus was shifted away from business recruitment and toward infrastructure investment in the name of "community development." The Oregon Economic Development Department was even renamed the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department to signal this shift.

When the national recession hit, Oregon's adoption of Fodor's strategy gave us the highest unemployment rate in the country, a $2 billion drop in state tax revenues and tens of millions more lost to cities, counties and school districts. This, not the pittance spent on economic development, is the real cause of funding cuts for schools, social services and public safety.

Kulongoski has revitalized the OECDD and placed business recruitment and retention back at the top of the state's agenda. The Lane Metro Partnership is working with OECDD, the governor's Economic Revitalization Team and other regional economic development agencies to put his agenda into effect. Far from being obsolete, this is the strategy being pursued across the country and around the world by governments that care about their citizens' quality of life.

Much of what Fodor writes is simply untrue. His statement that "Most of the new jobs at Hynix ... went to people who did not previously live in Eugene" is false. Both Sony and Hynix primarily hired locally, and both cited the quality of our work force as a primary advantage to locating here. Hynix continues to hire locally, with 78 percent of its new employees in the past 20 months coming from Lane County and 95 percent from within Oregon.

In addition, the Lane Metro Partnership has not advocated expanding the urban growth boundary. We have simply asked local governments to survey available land within the UGB to determine whether we are meeting the requirements of state law. Apparently Fodor assumes that any objective study will conclude that there is a land shortage, and that this will lead local governments to expand the UGB. …