by Deborah Steele Hazen
A year or so ago at a hearing regarding development at the Port Westward industrial park, a spokesperson for Columbia Riverkeepers, which has become a primary force in opposing job creation in the Lower Columbia region, was asked what type of economic development he would approve of in this area.
The spokesperson is from the metropolitan area. He is a professional industrial opponent, and he seemed to be stumped for a moment. Then he recovered. His answer? “Environmental tourism.”
We have nothing against tourism, including “environmental tourism” – however one defines that – but we cannot sustain our quality of life, our small business community, our schools, parks, libraries, streets and roads, water and sewer systems, law enforcement personnel and jails on tourism alone.
The Lower Columbia region is beautiful, we have quiet sloughs for kayaking, the Columbia and its tributaries for fishing and boating, the Coast Range for hiking and biking, but we don’t have the ocean, or the Columbia River Gorge. Our mountains – most of the time – are not snowy enough for winter sports. Our tourism potential – while it can be exploited more than it has been – is limited.
What’s more, jobs in the tourism industry usually pay little more than minimum wage.
The economy of this area depends on diversification including tourism, small businesses, agricultural, the wood products industry and other industries that take advantage of the port facilities that are a gateway to the Pacific Rim.
Of course we must address the issues associated with industrial development, for instance rail safety. Of course, any industry locating at Port Westward or elsewhere in Northwest Oregon must meet environmental standards, for instance the air emissions standards that will be discussed at the Department of Environmental Quality hearing this week.
But just saying no, is saying no to the future of our community.
We would encourage local residents whose vision goes beyond “environmental tourism” to attend Thursday’s hearing, participate in the information session that begins at 6 p.m. in the Clatskanie Middle/High School auditorium, give oral input, and/or write letters of support for Global Partners’ plan to invest millions and add good-paying jobs at Port Westward. Written comments may be mailed, faxed or emailed by 5 p.m. on April 11 to:
mail, fax or email to:
DEQ Northwest Region
Air Quality Permit Coordinator
2020 SW 4th Ave.,
Portland, OR 97201
Email: NWRAQPermits@ deq.state.or.us.
Visions of the Future
Last week in this column we reviewed the strategic plan for the Clatskanie area that was developed 15 years ago. While some of the details reflected the personal preferences and dreams of particular individuals within the group of about 40 citizens who participated in the process, in large part it was a balanced strategy of implementing a multi-cogged economic engine and protecting our quality of life.
We continue to believe in that approach, and we are happy to see it reflected in the draft “Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy” being developed by the Northwest Oregon Regional Partnership – a combination of the Columbia-Pacific Economic Development District of Oregon, the Northwest (NW) Oregon Economic Alliance, NW Oregon Area Commission on Transportation, and NW Oregon Workforce Investment program. Those entities are made up of representatives of state agencies serving NW Oregon, local elected leaders, business and industry representatives, and other citizens from Columbia, Clatsop, Tillamook and western Washington counties who are interested in promoting the prosperity of their communities.
According to the draft vision statement:
“Principal characteristics of this vision include new and enhanced family wage jobs; diversification and expansion of employment opportunities through retention and expansion of existing businesses, and support for new business development.
“Diverse employment opportunities for the current population, based on value-added, export-oriented business activity and effective work force training, will provide increased entry and family wage jobs. Support for business development includes improving access to infrastructure such as transportation, moving industrial sites to building-ready status, streamlining the permitting process and linking those interested in business development with local economic and financial resources.
“The Governor’s NW Oregon Regional Solutions Team (NWRST) brings state agency support to the region’s economic development.”
The NWRST’s mission and priorities are designed to work in concert with and mirror the priorities of the local economic councils, and include promoting and sustaining “healthy communities through retention, diversification and expansion of the economic base. Job creation is paramount with the goal of expanding the region’s economic base while being responsible stewards of the region’s natural resources.”
Specifically, according to the draft:
• “Sustain and grow NW Oregon’s businesses by exploiting opportunities in areas such as marine-based industry, tourism, small manufacturing, forest products, agriculture and aviation.
• “Encourage innovation, business incubation and the manufacturing of new product technologies. Assist business start-ups and entrepreneurs. Encourage the creation of quality industrial flex-space.
• “Improve the readiness of industrial land by addressing wetlands, transportation access, infrastructure and other impediments on prime industrial land in the region. Work to increase the number of sites that have building-ready status.
• “Review, streamline and address regulatory and permitting impediments to economic development.
• “Work with rural communities to plan, coordinate, fund and install needed infrastructure.”
It’s good to know that such a broad base of public and private regional leaders are on a solid, reasonable and balanced approach aimed at a prosperous and livable NW Oregon in the future.