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Even in economic downturn, resilience, open-mindedness count.

Byline: blue chip

There are very serious concerns nationwide regarding the stability of our economy. Daily news reports tell about cutbacks, layoffs closures and financial collapse. Major national corporations and small locally owned companies are all vulnerable.

Having been through this before, our local economy has learned from experiences and will learn from those yet to happen. We can take a serious look at those elements of our local economy that weathered the storm 25 years ago and try to capitalize on what they did and how they survived.

Specific industries that may be tied to natural resources, such as lumber and petroleum, are affected by factors outside of local control.

When the housing market slumps nationwide, our lumber products industries suffer commensurately. The same goes for the motor home industry as their product is affected by the price of fuel. These industries have the ability and creativity to adapt and offset their losses.

The University of Oregon is one example of a somewhat recession-proof industry. Every year in late August, local stores come alive. Shelves are stocked to accommodate returning students. The rental industry receives a boost and spending in local retail and service outlets increases. Education is a great example of an economic engine which can contribute greatly to local economy.

We also have Lane Community College which has the ability to become a regional training center for skilled professions such as nursing.

We have a huge untapped potential for expanding in the skilled trades category. There are many trades that are going unserviced due to a lack of trained and certified technicians.

Every day you see ads for machinists, welders, metal fabricators and others.

One of the negatives of expanding the local educational base is the fact that when these bases expand they place an additional burden on providers of local services such as public works, police and fire. They pay nothing directly towards the cost of providing those services as they are exempt from property taxes.

On the flip side the residual "ripple effect" of every dollar spent on education is multiplied outside of the tax exempt sector through the consumer of the education as well as the provider. Regardless, the local education sector is still a strong economic engine and provides for stability in our local economy.

Another segment of the local economy that has done well during economic slowdowns has been the health care industry.

PeaceHealth and McKenzie-Willamette hospitals have demonstrated the ability to continue to grow and meet the demands for skilled health care sought by an aging population. The recent opening of the Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend will have a strong impact on stabilizing our local economy, as people will travel to the area to seek specialized medical treatments.

A critical component in supporting economic diversification is an adequate supply of unconstrained land in all categories (commercial, industrial and residential). This has been an issue of long-standing local debate. Controversy abounds over how much land is "adequate."

Fortunately Springfield already has completed

part of a needed study on this issue, and is continuing to look at parts of the market that are perceived as having a shortage of land.

Eugene is following suit and will soon begin inventorying, qualifying and quantifying the supply of usable land.

But we need to have the discussion. All perspectives need to be heard. The opinions of one special interest group should not be given more weight than another. This decision needs to be well researched and analyzed.

We are in an economic slowdown. We need to recognize the types of industries that provide living wage jobs and that are somewhat protected from national declines in the economy. These industries need our support.

By promoting and supporting a diversified, balanced economic base, we will weather this economic decline much better than we did in the 1980s.

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John Brown started his career in residential and commercial real estate appraisal in 1977. He is a partner in Evans, Elder and Brown. To submit a question to him, email: bluechip@registerguard.com.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 1, 2008
Words:678
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