Business Plan Road Tour Has Successful Start in Medford
This will be a critical year for the Oregon Business Plan, as the Legislature prepares for the 2019 Long Session. Longstanding fiscal challenges, including public employee pension and health care costs, remain unresolved while newer challenges, including high housing costs and homelessness, place even greater pressure on the state budget.
Oregon Business & Industry (OBI) has increased its involvement in development of the Business Plan, with a particular emphasis on advocacy for the Plan. This approach was on display last week as representatives of OBI and other Business Plan partners sought input from stakeholders in Southern Oregon.
OBI was represented by Interim President Ginny Lang and Vice President & Counsel Betsy Earls, as well as Board Members Pat McCormick, who also is a communications consultant to the Business Plan, and Brad Hicks, who also is President & CEO of the Medford-Jackson County Chamber of Commerce.
One of the critical roles for OBI in building support for the Business Plan is engaging with Legislators early in the process. Earls traveled to Southern Oregon before the rest of the Business Plan team for one-on-one meetings with Legislators in Grants Pass, Klamath Falls and Ashland. Another important role is collaboration with local chambers of commerce. The Medford Chamber organized and hosted listening sessions where the Business Plan team gathered input and answered questions.
In addition to these meetings, the OBI team, as well as Oregon Business Council (OBC) Vice President Jeremy Rogers, met with local media and community leaders. They were able to build on knowledge that was shared during a similar visit in 2017 that included OBC President Duncan Wyse and Portland Business Alliance (PBA) President & CEO Sandra McDonough. Lang was interviewed by KOBI television in Medford. To see the interview, click here.
The community input in Medford reflected the challenges facing Oregon, including concern about rising housing prices. Solving the state’s housing crisis requires many of the same steps as improving educational outcomes, in particular addressing Oregon’s structural budget deficit. As long as unsustainable portions of the state budget go toward pension and employee health care costs, adequate money will not be available for wise investments that will make Oregon a better place for everyone.
OBI, PBA and OBC are committed to a process that can produce solutions in the 2019 Session by seeking public input, building relationships with Legislators, developing specific proposals, building community support for these solutions and Legislators who support them, and advocating for the solutions during the 2019 Session. The effort is off to a good start, but much work remains.
“OBI can play an important role in achieving these goals by adding our advocacy weight to the outstanding research and policy work that the Business Plan does,” Lang said. “We can bring not only the business community, but also other key stakeholders, together to rally behind solutions that work.”
The Business Plan team plans to return to Southern Oregon in late summer or early fall to update stakeholders on policy development. Similar listening sessions are planned in other regions of the state, including the Columbia River Gorge and Interstate 84 corridor, May 17-18; Bend, June 4; Coos Bay, June 6; Eugene, June 8; and Corvallis, June 11. If you would like more information, contact Betsy Earls.