Wyden, leaders push computer chips, job training at summit
Oregon U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden announced Monday that he would co-chair a new commission on Advance Computer Chips with PGE President and CEO Maria Pope.Â
The Blue Ribbon Commission is intended to boost the economies of the state and nation.
"You can't fix anything in America without advanced computer chips," Wyden said at the 19th Annual Business Plan Summit that was held on the morning of Dec. 6.Â
The summit brought business, community and elected leaders together to discuss the challenges and opportunities for the state's economic recovery. Although focused on advanced manufacturing and workforce training, the plan endorsed by the summit included racial and social justice components intended to ensure that all Oregonians benefit from the recovery.
"The plan is premised on the idea that we can work together across sectors and make Oregon a better place," said Oregon Business Plan Chair Joth Ricci, President & CEO of Dutch Bros Coffee.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown endorsed the plan and encouraged support for a $200 million workforce development initiative she will introduce during the 2022 Oregon Legislature.
"I love the plan. Let's do it together for a better Oregon," Brown said when interviewed by Ricci.
The keynote address was delivered by Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, who stressed his company's importance to the state.
"I hope you come to realize how important Intel is to Oregon and the nation," Gelsinger said. "We have 21,000 Intel employees in Oregon. We added 3,500 in the last year alone."Â
But Gelsinger said Intel and other high-tech companies need government help to compete against Asian countries aggressively pursuing high-tech manufacturing opportunities. He urged summit participants to support such new federal initiatives as the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act. It would provide $52 billion in incentives for domestic computer chip research, development and manufacturing.Â
"Are we going to level the playing field and bring this industry back to the country? Oregon stands to benefit more than any other state," Gelsinger said.
Oregon U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley brought the summit's main topics together by remembering what he learned in high school shop classes.
"We have to teach the joy of making things again, and the jobs pay well," said Merkley, who called for the creation of more shop classes in Oregon schools.
The summit took place both in-person at the Oregon Convention Center and remotely because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It was hosted by the nonpartisan Oregon Business Council in partnership with other business organizations, including the Oregon Business & Industry advocacy organization.
Other scheduled participants include Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, Higher Education Coordinating Commission Executive Director Ben Cannon, Portland Community College President Mark Mitsui, and Jaime Arredondo, an advocate for Oregon's Latinx families and farmworkers.
The goal was to discuss and agree on an updated statewide plan for furthering Oregon's recovery from the pandemic and building towards greater future economic growth. Specific issues discussed included how federal pandemic stimulus funds can boost the state, the need for training for workers whose jobs are eliminated by economic changes and production challenges created by supply chain problems.
Four new goals representing the Shared Prosperity Vision were included:Â
1.Â Grow Wages to raise the economic well-being of Oregonians continuously. Typically, wages increase when businesses are more productive, and individuals are more highly skilled.Â
2.Â Increase the share of people working by creating an environment where everyone has the opportunity to succeed — especially displaced workers.Â
3.Â Grow household wealth for Oregonians, especially at lower and middle-income levels, to increase family security and intergenerational well-being.Â
4.Â Increase economic mobility for new generations of Oregonians, regardless of race or place, to thrive economically.
The priorities recommended by the Oregon Business Plan — in particular manufacturing and adult workforce development — are summarized immediately below.Â
• Reset Manufacturing, Expand Semiconductor Production:Â Policy recommendations highlight specific changes needed in land use (more land, more infrastructure), workforce (significant need for investment in training), regulatory environment, research, and more. The most urgent opportunity is semiconductor expansion.
• Adult Workforce Investment.Â Tens of thousands of Oregonians lost jobs during the pandemic. Federal American Rescue Plan Act funds provide opportunities to retrain them for high-wage, high-demand positions in manufacturing, health care, and construction.Â
• Broadband.Â During the pandemic, broadband has become a critical resource for work, education, health care, and personnel connection. It needs to be expanded and made more affordable.
• Housing.Â Overpriced housing has left thousands of Oregonians without shelter, stressing family incomes, and making the state a difficult place to live, work, and attract talent. The plan supports the accelerated production of 30,000 units per year.
• Earned Income Tax Credits and Child Care Tax Credits.Â These have become important tools important tool for providing supports and encouraging upward mobility for low-income Oregonians. Investment in tax preparation services and outreach through community-based organizations could make a big difference.
• Interstate Bridge Replacement.Â Replacement of the I-5 Columbia River bridge is again a top priority of the plan. Reasons include transportation safety and efficiency, West Coast commerce, regional economic opportunity, and construction jobs. At the same time, Oregon must find a solution on the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project, which seeks to alleviate congestion south of the Columbia crossing and redress historic disruptions to the Albina community.
According to its website, the Oregon Business Plan was launched in 2002 as an ongoing collaborative effort between the state's business community, elected leaders and other key stakeholders to achieve greater economic growth and prosperity across all of Oregon's regions. It has four long-range goals: adding 25,000 net new jobs per year; raising per capita income above the national average; reducing the percentage of Oregonians living in poverty to less than 10%; and increasing economic mobility and shared prosperity across Oregon's diverse communities and geography.
Each version of the plan has been presented and discussed at annual summits. Priorities have included improving graduation rates and the appeal of well-paying jobs that do not require college degrees. The process has continued through recessions and recoveries, and was forced into an online series of online conversions about recovering from the pandemic in 2020.
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