The 2011 Oregon Business Plan presents ten ideas to help create 25, 000 new jobs per year and lift Oregon’s per capita personal income levels above the national average by 2020. Two of these initiatives are streamlining permitting processes and improving the availability of prime industrial lands. SB 766 and SB 792 both help advance these objectives, and we strongly urge the Senate Business, Transportation and Economic Development Committee to support these bills.
SB 766 would establish an “Economic Recovery Review Council” that would address two key issues we have identified as critical to making prime industrial land quickly available for high-paying, revenue-generating traded sector jobs:
- Speeding up the permitting process for industrial projects of statewide significance
- Designating “Regionally Significant Industrial Areas” and protecting them from conversion to other uses or reductions in productive capacity due to local land use actions that are not required by state or federal law
The bill was introduced by the Governor, Senator Lee Beyer, and House Democratic Leader Dave Hunt during a roundtable meeting with manufacturers in February.
The concept was developed through a working group process that began in Representative Brian Clem’s House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee during the interim. The goal was to figure out how we can maximize industrial development inside the UGB. When session began, Senator Lee Beyer took over as leader of the working group.
The working group included DLCD, 1000 Friends of Oregon, business groups, the Governor’s office, Business Oregon, the AFL-CIO, the Oregon Building Trades Council, local government representatives and others.
When we set the urban growth boundary, huge efforts are made to calculate the precise number of acres of industrial land that will be necessary to accommodate economic development over the next two decades. Once the boundary has been set, many local governments work hard to zone industrial land and protect it from conversion to other uses or regulations and overlays that effectively limit its capacity. However, other local jurisdictions can and do make individual decisions that effectively reduce the actual number of acres of industrial land within the UGB. There is no feedback loop, no opportunity to reopen the UGB discussion and “make up” for the industrial lands lost to local decisions.
The results are we lose jobs and economic activity because we have too little industrial land to meet demand. These solid, middle-income jobs simply move elsewhere. This leaves us with struggling families here at home and fewer tax dollars for schools, human services, and public safety. These types of decisions contribute to Oregon’s lackluster job and employment performance and hold us back from reaching the goal of more high wage jobs.
We believe that SB 766 would help address this critical issue and ensure that the lands we count on for economic development inside the UGB are really and truly available for job creation.
The other part of the bill-speeding up permitting processes for projects that have a big impact on employment and wages in a community, is also a great idea. Local governments and economic developers can market this expedited process to companies looking to grow or move here. And companies will have the certainty that their investment won’t be tied up in years of process and litigation. This new process would only apply to projects that the council deems as “projects of statewide significance.” These would be a very limited number of projects that deal with traded sector industries where the project would have a major impact on employment and income in the community. Local governments would work with the new Council to determine which projects should qualify.
Another bill, SB 792, creates mechanisms for a more coordinated regional approach to industrial lands. In the Portland area, Metro serves the function of coordinating multiple jurisdictions around land use planning (though the process could be better coordinated with economic development, something we hope happens with the creation of the new Regional Partners/Greenlight Greater Portland merger). SB 792 sets up the opportunity for jurisdictions in other parts of the state to partner with their neighbors to develop regional economic development plans and then use those plans to shape region wide decisions about industrial lands, infrastructure investments, and targeted regulatory relief from the state. SB 792 provides a more rational approach to planning for industrial lands-economic development happens in a regional, not a city, context.
Neither of these bills fully addresses the issue of total industrial land supply (and the need for a short term rolling supply of land), infrastructure finance, or Brownfield redevelopment. We hope that either in this session or next session we can work with the committee to address these issues and improve the ability of our state and local jurisdictions to help traded sector companies to locate and expand in Oregon, driving up our average wage and reducing our persistently high unemployment levels.
Click here to contact your own legislator in support of these bills.