Outreach to industry reflects larger trend across state
The welcome mat for industry is being rewoven in many places in Oregon.
It's in the voice of Gov. Victor Atiyeh when he says: ''I submit to you that our tough-on-business image is as much an impediment to economic development as today's high interest rates.''
It's in a pastoral setting west of Portland at the Oregon Graduate Center, an institution that hopes to provide PhDs and practical research to high-technology firms in the area.
And it's in Portland's City Hall. Mayor Francis J. Ivancie plans to promote his city both at home and abroad. He recently visited Zurich on a trade mission, and he's trying to convince Pacific countries into the city's port.
This evergreen city wants expansion and growth, and it is poised for an all-out campaign to get it. Various groups such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Portland Development Commission have task forces on the issue. Oregon business leaders visiting other parts of the country are urged to ''sell'' their state.
Portland boosters cite a stable work force, minimum labor strife, abundance of pure water, good energy and transportation, plentiful land, and moderate climate as factors in attracting business.
But some are worried about such minuses as a high income tax, complex land-use laws, a lackluster educational system, and potential increases in the cost of energy.
C. N. Winningstad is chairman of Floating Point Systems Inc., a high-tech firm in nearby Beaverton. He laments an antibusiness attitude, which he says is reflected in too-strict zoning laws and high income taxes.
''It kills the goose who lays the golden egg. ''Last year the state got three or four significant new firms, and we lost a couple. North Carolina grew by more than a hundred.''
He tells how Hewlett-Packard had to fight local officials for a year and a half before getting approval for its Corvallis, Ore., plant.
''And this was a clean industry that treats its employees right,'' he says. ''Oregon is incorrect to think it can ignore the second half of the Industrial Revolution. It would remain an agrarian state forever.''
Georgia-Pacific Corporation, a lumber company with headquarters here since 1954, is planning to move its headquarters to Atlanta this year, although it will still have offices in Portland. The official reason for the move, planned since 1978, is that most of GP's sales are on the other side of the Rockies.
But some Portlanders privately speculate that the company was tired of the tax structure. Even GP officials admit that some adjustment is needed.
''State taxes have driven capital over the border,'' says Vernor Schenck, GP public affairs manager for the Western region.
There is more talk than ever this year about adopting a state sales tax to take some of the burden from income taxes. Historically there has been strong resistance to such a tax. The last time it was on the ballot (all new taxes must be OK'd by voters), it was turned down nearly 8 to 1.
Oregon has been known for its inexpensive energy, which is why companies like Reynolds Aluminum, which has a plant just east of Portland in Troutdale, locate here. But some fear the cancellation of several nuclear power plants in Washington State will drive Oregon's electricity rates up. One economist predicts a 200 to 300 percent increase.
Mayor Ivancie insists that only public utility districts with a monetary interest in the Washington plants will be affected, and Portland gets most of its power from Portland General Electric, which is not tied to the plants.
Portland industries are also finding ways to bolster education in the area as a means of attracting more high-tech firms. ''We don't have an MIT, Cal, or Stanford,'' Mr. Winningstad points out.
The Oregon Graduate Center, a small private school offering advanced degrees in fields like computer science and engineering, applied physics, electronics, chemistry, and biochemical sciences, wants to fill that gap. It is getting the support of local industry, which helped start the institution in the 1960s and provides 35 percent of its budget.
''High tech requires more PhDs--innovators, researchers, dreamers, and designers,'' says Dr. Lawrence E. Murr, vice-president for academic affairs and research, who is confident the center can provide those people.