Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Kulongoski looking for jobs in the wrong places?

Oregon’s unemployment rate jumped almost 1% in one month--from 6.4% in September 2008 to 7.3% in October 2008.

Back in July (when Oregon’s unemployment rate was a much more reasonable 5.6%), Gov. Kulongoski was looking to green, eco-friendly jobs for Oregon’s new employment boom. He mentioned his own lessened interest in non-green jobs.

“But Kulongoski appears to have settled into his last, legacy-making push for jobs in solar, wind, biofuels and anything else that battles both unemployment and global warming.

“‘If you're asking me whether I think this is the entrance of a new economy, I think the answer is yes,’ he says.
. . .

“Kulongoski says his approach has nothing to do with symbolism but represents a dramatic change of direction for how the state recruits new jobs. In the past, he says, he and his economic development directors would go into a drop-everything mode when a business started nosing around Oregon.

“Now, he says, ‘we're being more strategic. You ask yourself, ‘What kind of jobs do you want here?’ ’

“He wants Oregon to become a national center for the renewable and alternate energy industry, for electric cars, for the new movement toward "green" construction. By way of example, he cites the discussion over building a new Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River.

“The $4 billion in federal and state money would provide hundreds of construction jobs. But Kulongoski hopes to make the project one of the most environmentally sound in the nation, using environmentally friendly construction materials and techniques. Inclusion of light rail would help as well, he says.”

[emphasis mine]

Unfortunately the green job strategy has some built-in problems. Even if there is a ramp up in "green" industry, energy industries don’t require lots of workers.

“Mark McMullen, who watches Oregon's job market for the investment firm Moody's, says the energy sector has its pros and cons as an economic stimulus.

“‘We're talking about high-wage jobs,’ McMullen says, ‘so that's obviously a plus. The minus is, it's not a very big industry. . . . In general, energy and resource industries don't do a whole lot of hiring. They provide a lot of value and output, but it doesn't take a lot of workers to do that.’”

It's unclear how much of Oregon’s current unemployment jump is a result of Kulongoski’s coolness to non-green businesses. But, October's unemployment rate jump is a jolt to Kulongoski's strategy of being warmly inviting and pro-business primarily for "green" businesses.

Unfortunately, Kulongoski's only pronouncement so far on the jump in unemployment regards extending unemployment benefits.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski, in Asia on a trade trip, called on Congress Monday to enact another federal stimulus package that includes a federally funded unemployment-benefits extension of another 13 weeks. Absent that, Kulongoski said, he would work with the Legislature to enact a state-funded emergency extension for benefits.

And the Democratic controlled state legislature leans to public works projects.

Legislators are preparing job-creation proposals for the upcoming session in January. Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, and his aides calculate the state could create about 35,000 jobs through a bond-financed public-works program combined with capital-construction initiatives proposed by Kulongoski.

The only ones talking about business expansion are the Republicans who are in the minority of both houses in the state legislature.

"'In January, the Legislature must move quickly to give tax relief to lower-income workers and all working families -- two simple tax-reform measures that would create over 20,000 new jobs,' said House Republican Leader Bruce Hanna, R-Roseburg. 'The state can't reverse its horrible economic performance by simply expanding government and further increasing debt.'"

Elections have consequences.


OregonGuy said...

As another man once said, "I feel your pain."

I always thought the idea of trains running on magnetic levitation was a cool idea. Impractical, but cool.

Now we have a state government that's seemingly running in a levitation state. They have a Vision. And not a drop of common sense among them.


T. D. said...

Exactly. You would think the governor would have had more political sense, let alone common sense, than to admit that he and his team were being selective in the jobs he wanted Oregonians to have. Speak in haste; repent at leisure.

Though you can bet the Oregonian will never reference its own story and point out the "problems" with Gov. Kulongoski's own job performance on bringing jobs to Oregon.