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Chair's Blog

Value of Jobs study connects educational achievement and Portland-metro incomes March 2013
By Dennis Rawlinson

As you may know, the Value of Jobs Coalition released a groundbreaking study last week comparing Portland-metro’s incomes and educational achievement. The results were surprising, identifying that college-educated workers are the largest contributing group to Portland-metro’s $2.7 billion earnings gap. The study received a substantial amount of local media coverage and initiated quite a conversation on The Oregonian’s website. I encourage you to read the comments and join in on the conversation.

The study is part of our ongoing Value of Jobs campaign, which started in 2010 when we identified that this region suffered from a long-term decline in wages and income. Where we once had per capita incomes that topped the national average for metro areas, we started to fall in the late 1990s and have now plateaued at below average. Since 2010, we have continued to ask why, what's caused the delay and what do we do about it?

The results show that we must do more to support a business environment that will grow higher-income jobs for all workers in order to fund important public services, like education, and build a healthier economy. We need to focus on the educational aspect and ask ourselves, are we preparing students for a good mix of careers? And, are we creating an environment that fosters job growth so that jobs are available for Portland-metro workers?

We’ve learned from this study that improving incomes is crucial for improving Oregon’s education enterprise. We are an income-tax-dependent state, therefore if we want more money for schools, we need better incomes that yield tax revenue to the state. The report showed that roughly $110 million would be available to K-12 schools in Oregon if Portland-metro’s workers earned the same amount as the U.S. metro average, which could fund more than 1,200 teachers.

The report’s results are a call to action for all Oregonians to focus on what makes a difference in growing an economy as a strategy for growing higher-income jobs for all workers. As the voice for business in the region, the Alliance will continue to explore these issues and look for answers while fueling the conversation about growing jobs and income in the region.

To support private-sector job retention and growth, the Value of Jobs Coalition, which includes the Alliance, Associated Oregon Industries, Greater Portland, Inc., Oregon Business Association, Oregon Business Council and the Port of Portland, is continuing to work on its Action Plan.  Included in the Action Plan are several key pieces of legislation are moving through the Legislature this session. 

For example, several bills related to the market readiness of industrial lands are part of that action.  These bills (HB 2284 and 2285; SB 246 and 253) would assist local jurisdictions in preparing development-ready industrial lands by authorizing partially forgivable state loans for industrial land development and grants for due diligence as well as improvements to the land use review process. The impetus for this bill came from an earlier Value of Jobs report, which showed a lack of market-ready industrial land.  We will continue working with partners to support the passage of these and other jobs-related bills this session.
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