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Report: room for improvement when it comes to ensuring region's residents have access to stable, family-wage jobs

COURTESY: PORTLAND BUSIENSS ALLIANCE - Dave Robertson

As greater Portland's chamber of commerce, the Portland Business Alliance is charged with ensuring all of our region's residents have access to stable, family-wage jobs.

To advocate for policies that promote positive and equitable economic and social outcomes, it's critical to understand the strengths and weaknesses in all areas of our local economy.

This is why, since 2010, the Alliance has led the Value of Jobs coalition to track our region through an annual Economic Check-up, measuring indicators like personal income, educational attainment, industry growth and housing supply. The data serves as a scorecard of sorts for use by elected officials and business leaders, as we work together to make our region thrive.

In many ways, our economy remains strong. Our communities are more educated, we're exporting products at a rate rivaling Seattle, and personal incomes surpassed the U.S. metro average for the first time in the report's history.

However, the data also sheds light on startling racial disparities in median household incomes, a woefully inadequate supply of affordable housing, and a clearly strained regional infrastructure network. These findings warrant immediate and strategic collaboration between public and private sectors to ensure that all who have helped to build this strong economy are sharing equally in the prosperity.

For the first time this year, the Value of Jobs report analyzed the economic realities in East Multnomah County, which for the purposes of this report is defined as east of Interstate 205, in addition to the tri-county region as a whole. We chose to focus on what's happening in this particular community because comprehensive research is the foundation of thoughtful public policy.

The data reveals both surprising and expected outcomes, but one thing is very clear: East Multnomah County has a huge impact on Portland's overall economic vitality. With nearly 100,000 jobs east of I-205, matching the recent record-breaking count in Portland's Central City, East Multnomah County is the most rapidly diversifying community in the region. It is its own economic engine.

Despite the rising number of jobs, nearly every industry sector offers lower average wages per employee in East Multnomah County than west of the interstate. For example, in management of companies, East Multnomah County jobs pay almost $70,000 less than those same jobs in western Washington County. Significant disparities also abound in the healthcare and social assistance industries, as well as manufacturing, food services and others.

The data also uncovered a serious live-work imbalance in East Multnomah County. Most of the jobs there aren't going to people who live nearby, as more workers commute into East Multnomah County (67 percent) than into West Multnomah County (44 percent). And 69 percent of residents in East County have jobs in a different part of the region. Of course, this daily in- and out-migration strains an infrastructure system already overdue for meaningful investment and has serious environmental impacts. As regional business leaders, our objective must be to encourage the creation and retention of family-wage jobs in East Multnomah County and make sure they are accessible to the people living there.

These statistics highlight a tremendous opportunity for the regional business community to better collaborate with residents and local policymakers to improve access to good family-wage jobs in East Multnomah County. Together, we must develop innovative policies to promote a healthier live-work-balance and increase wages across all skill levels.

As a regional chamber of commerce, the Portland Business Alliance will conduct a comprehensive review of our membership in East Multnomah County to identify the businesses that need better representation at policymaking tables. We will call on our partners in other economic development agencies, fellow thought leaders, local government officials and our members across the business community to work together, and to spark solution-oriented conversations about the real challenges and opportunities facing residents and businesses east of Interstate 205.

While the Portland region as a whole reaps the rewards of a strong economy, it is the top priority of the Portland Business Alliance to facilitate the growth of a resilient economic future for all who live and work in our region. The value of a job must be the same in East Multnomah County as the rest of the region, and as this conversation moves forward, we must all commit to a truly equitable and balanced economy.

Find out more

The "Value of Jobs: Economic Check-Up" and "A Closer Look: East Multnomah County" are produced by the Portland Business Alliance in partnership with ECONorthwest. For the full report, including interactive charts and why this matters, visit: ValueofJobs.com/2018

Dave Robertson is the chair of the Portland Business Alliance board of directors. Send feedback to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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