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Solution to slowdown sought.

Byline: ED RUSSO The Register-Guard

Faced with the loss of more than 2,000 jobs so far this year and a weak economy, now would be a good time for Eugene's political, community and business leaders to put aside their differences, Oregon's economic development expert said Wednesday.

Bill Scott, director of the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department, said business leaders and local politicians are doing a "terrific" job of contacting area manufacturers and offering help during the economic slowdown.

But, he said, it will be a challenge to form a "constructive partnership" in Eugene between commerce and community leaders, who sometimes have differing views on the desirability of attracting new companies to town.

"Business, government and education need to get on the same page," Scott said during a speech at a Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Eugene Hilton.

Before Scott's speech, Chamber Executive Vice President David Hauser unveiled a list of ideas the chamber will ask the Eugene City Council to implement to aid the local economy and help dispel any perception that Eugene is not friendly to business. The list includes everything from free parking in downtown Eugene on Saturdays to addressing what the chamber views as a shortage of commercial and industrial land in the city.

In an interview Wednesday, Scott said someone will have to show leadership to bridge the gap in Eugene between community and business leaders. An ideal candidate for that tricky job would be someone that people of various viewpoints respect, he said.

Possibilities include an elected official, business leader or educator, Scott said.

Meanwhile, on the state level, Gov. John Kitzhaber has appointed a committee to evaluate short- and long-term ways to help Oregon's economy.

Oregon's jobless rate is among the highest in the nation, at 6.5 percent. That rate isn't particularly high when compared to historical trends. But it has increased rapidly, from 4.4 percent at the beginning of 2001, and officials are worried about the spate of layoffs that have taken place at high-tech plants and transportation equipment factories throughout the Willamette Valley.

Short term fixes include more promotion of tourism and of film and video production, and the expediting of business permits, Scott said. Long-term ideas include better commercialization of research at Oregon universities and improving transportation, telecommunications and other types of infrastructure, he said.

STEPS ADVOCATED

BY EUGENE CHAMBER:

HULT CENTER: Re-evaluate programs to strengthen tourism

PUBLIC WORKS: Speed up already-approved projects

PARKING: Free parking in downtown Eugene on Saturdays until Jan. 1, 2002, to boost retail sales

CITY ATTITUDE: Adopt resolution saying city of Eugene is "open for business."

LAND SUPPLY: Have city staff offer solutions to shortage of commercial and industrial land

FINANCIAL AID: Develop new incentive programs to encourage private development in downtown

CAPTION(S):

CHRIS PIETSCH / The Register-Guard Bill Scott, director of the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department, has lunch with local business owners.
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Title Annotation:Chamber of Commerce: A state expert says strong leadership can help build bridges.; Business
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Nov 15, 2001
Words:486
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