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Clackamas County looks for solutions to lagging economy

Clackamas County is lagging far behind its regional counterparts in terms of job growth. That’s according to a newly released report on Oregon’s economic forecast from state economists.

While Multnomah and Washington counties have recovered all of their jobs lost during the recession, Clackamas County has recovered just half. Oregon overall has recovered about 80 percent.

A major force at work in the state’s economy is a changing of the guard from timber jobs to technology.

“Currently, Oregon’s high-tech industry accounts for the same number of workers and nearly the same share of state wages as the forest sector did in the 1970s,” according to the report.

Clackamas County commissioners often talk of a desire for a large-scale, Intel-like technology firm, but lament a lack of shovel-ready land with good access.

“We don’t have much to offer them (potential employers) in a place to expand,” Commissioner Paul Savas said at an Aug. 7 business meeting. “So we have lost opportunities and we have lost employers simply because we don’t have the land inventory that the other counties do.”

The most recent urban growth boundary draft report released in July from Metro says Clackamas County doesn’t need to add any more land to its buildable inventory. There are about 50 sites region-wide available for large industrial businesses, so Metro planners suggest the focus should be on making the sites ready for business.

“Existing sites typically require actions such as infrastructure provision, wetland mitigation, site assembly, brownfield cleanup, annexation by cities, and planning to make sites development-ready,” the report reads.

Savas says more needs to be done to ensure that the county has enough room for growth and good roads to get there. He is hoping to schedule a joint meeting of Metro committees Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation and the Metro Policy Advisory Committee to get a regional buy-in on the need for more employment lands in Clackamas County.

“I’m hoping there will be serious dialogue on this in the next year,” he said.

Metro is slated to finalize its five-year land-use plan in December 2015.

Read more about the state’s new economic forecast: portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/231437-95729-state-edges-closer-to-kicker-refund

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