Regional Report: The West

Oregon (No. 38)
Oregon continues to create jobs, making up for Great Recession losses. Last year’s 2.3 percent growth rate outpaced the 1.6 percent national average, accelerating in March to its strongest pace in nearly a decade. State economist Mark McMullen calls the expansion “a full-speed recovery” in a state struggling to sustain growth outside of its capital, Portland. Advanced manufacturing, clean technology, forestry products, high technology and outdoor gear and activewear are the state’s five targeted industries. Oregon’s GDP was $195 billion in 2012, growing at a 4 percent clip that outpaced the other Far West and Rocky Mountain states. Oregon’s tax burden ranks 16th highest out of 50 states, according to the Tax Foundation, and its business tax climate ranks 12th.

“Oregon’s 2.3 percent growth rate in 2013 outpaced the 1.6 percent national average, accelerating in March to its strongest pace in nearly a decade.”

Oregon spends at least $865 million per year on incentive programs, per The New York Times, predominantly property tax abatements and corporate income tax credits. Top incentives go to film and construction industries.

Aloha, Renewable Energy
Hawaii once had a strong sugar and pineapple-plantation agriculture. Today, much of that land lies fallow. According to Peter Rosegg, Hawaiian Electric spokesman, that land may once again be returned to fuel and agriculture. At Campbell Industrial Park in western Oahu, Hawaiian Electric has built and operates a 110-megawatt combustion-turbine power plant that runs on renewable biodiesel, including waste products such as animal fats and agricultural run-off. The power company intends to develop local biofuel suppliers using native organic materials. Biofuel candidates include jatropha, a hardy tropical bush with oil-filled seeds; switch grasses and algae. Hawaiian Electric has contracted several suppliers and continues to seek more.

Near total dependence on imported crude oil impacts daily life on the islands for everyone, adding to the urgency of engineering renewable-fuel solutions, Rosegg continued. “To offset oil’s high prices and extreme volatility, all new contracts for renewable energy such as wind, solar, waste to energy and geothermal are long-term, fixed price agreements that provide a growing hedge against oil. Many renewable-energy contracts we have signed in recent years are already competitive with oil prices, and will become even more so as oil continues its erratic upwards spiral,” says Rosegg.