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New Governors' Agendas 2011: John Kitzhaber, Oregon

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber is focusing on everything from business taxes to education to ensure a sustainable economic future for the Beaver State.

Editor's Note: This article is part of Area Development's Governors' Agendas series, which allows governors elected to office in 2011 to outline their business and economic development plans. View interviews with all new governors at

What resources will your administration leverage in order to attract businesses to your state?
Kitzhaber: First and foremost, Oregon is open for business. Oregon already boasts the lowest effective business tax rate in the U.S. (Ernst & Young Cost Study, 2010). It is ranked as the 6th best state in the nation to do business (Forbes, 2010), and has ranked consistently in the top 10 nationally for the best business and business tax climates.

I recently proposed new legislation (SB 766) that will help expedite permitting of industrial uses in certain designated regionally significant industrial areas. An Economic Recovery Review Council will provide swift site reviews for proposed industrial development projects. These new approaches will complement Oregon's already highly successful certified industrial site program.

As states, including Oregon, face unusually difficult budget decisions, now is the time to make smart investments to build up industries and businesses that will create the jobs and revenue that can pay for critical social services down the line. I recently proposed $18.9 million in funding for initiatives of the Oregon Innovation Council (Oregon InC). Oregon InC brings together leaders from private business and higher education to drive our innovation strategy - expanding markets for Oregon companies, creating jobs across the state, and leveraging Oregon's strengths to compete in the global economy. These initiatives helped create and retain over 1,100 jobs in the last four years, connected existing Oregon companies to important R&D assets to strengthen their competitiveness, and established Oregon as a center for innovation, as shown by CNN Money's ranking of Oregon as the 2nd most "inventive" state in the U.S.

We are also focusing on a range of other economic development tools as well, including an additional $5 million in funding for one of Business Oregon's (our state economic development agency) most important job creation tools - the Governor's Strategic Reserve Fund. I recently proposed an additional $8 million in funding to the Credit Enhancement Fund to assist small businesses in accessing needed capital, and a $10 million increase in incentives available for use by our Office of Film and Television.

And we also want to make it easy for companies to find critical business environment and site information in one place, making it easy for them to say yes to Oregon. Our new "Oregon Advantage" Web portal - accessible from my website - lays out the numerous competitive advantages the state of Oregon offers companies worldwide. The new Oregon Advantage web portal offers critical information about Oregon's competitive business environment with searchable links to available certified industrial properties and a dynamic intake form where site selectors can directly communicate with Oregon's national recruitment manager.

In addition, Business Oregon's website contains an exhaustive list of available government financing resources as well as information on how existing Oregon companies can access critical resources and talk to an expert in their local area about their business needs.

And, finally, Oregon has a work force that is ready to be on the job. On January 25, I launched the statewide availability of Oregon's Career Readiness Certificate, a nationally recognized program to provide objective documentation of an individual's foundational job skills. I've included $3.4 million for on-the-job training in my budget, and the integration with the Career Readiness Certificate Program will add efficiencies to these highly regarded work force programs.

Which particular industry sectors would be well served by your state's resources?
Kitzhaber: As a state, Oregon has focused its business development efforts for years on certain key industries. Currently, we focus on key industry sectors such as advanced manufacturing, clean technology, outdoor gear and apparel, forestry and wood products, high technology, agriculture and food products, aviation and aerospace, software, and alternative transportation/electric automotive and mass transit vehicles.

Here in Oregon, we know we must initiate, sustain, build, and attract traded-sector businesses that bring more jobs and dollars into Oregon's local economies. That is why we have worked to transform Oregon into a value-added manufacturing economy that continues to grow and prosper. Many of Oregon's manufacturing firms compete globally, in everything from high-tech and healthcare to steel fabrication and trucking.

Clean technology, and renewable energy in particular, is a booming industry across the globe, and Oregon has competitive advantages that have established the state as a recognized leader in the marketplace. For example, Oregon is home to the largest solar cell manufacturer in the United States, SolarWorld, and the state continues to draw interest from other companies looking to grow their product.

Oregon is still the largest lumber producer in the United States, yielding the highest quality lumber in the world. Advanced technology has streamlined the processing of Oregon timber and finished wood products, making the industry more competitive and less labor-intensive. New initiatives to develop biomass facilities within Oregon's forest products sector are already well under way.

Oregon is also home to the Silicon Forest, the local concentration of high-tech, small-tech, and semiconductor companies that have made a name for Oregon across the globe. Intel's largest manufacturing facility in the world is located here in Oregon, and numerous smaller companies and spin-offs have flourished as a result of their presence.

We also provide the ideal location for outdoor gear and active wear companies to flourish. Oregon is the home to global giant Nike, as well as Columbia Sportswear and Adidas America. The presence of these industry leaders has further strengthened Oregon's creative class in this industry sector and beyond.

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