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All Eyes On State And National Governments As Oregon Enjoys Booming Economy

Delaware Janssen

Last updated on June 14th, 2024 at 09:11 am

by Alissa Marchat/staff writer

The economic outlook is bright for the Beaver State, according to the state’s latest economic forecast, released by the Department of Administrative Services in late February. While Oregon is adding jobs at a slower pace than the “full-throttle” rates seen in 2014 and 2015, it still is outpacing the nation, with all parts of the state experiencing growth, according to the report. And the slowdown is a positive sign for the state, which is reaching full employment.

“As the regional labor market becomes tight, it is harder to find available workers. As such, job gains slow as there is not a large pool of unemployed individuals looking for work. A tight labor market, like Oregon’s today, has a few big implications for the outlook,” the report says.

Those implications include rising wages as companies compete for talent, higher sales for businesses as the state’s economic health improves and rising participation rates in the labor market.

“…Our office’s estimate of the state’s full employment labor force participation rate is higher than in recent years,” the report says. “This means the productive capacity of the Oregon labor force is larger in the coming years than previously assumed.”

Among industries that have seen the most growth in Oregon since the Great Recession are the food manufacturing and retail sectors.

“Currently, nine major industries are at all-time highs. Private sector food manufacturing, education and health never really suffered recessionary losses—although their growth did slow during the recession,” according to the report. “In recent months retail employment, other services, transportation, warehousing and utilities, in addition to the public sector, have surpassed their pre-recession levels and are at all-time highs.”

In all, eight private sector industries, including retail and food manufacturing, account for 59 percent of all jobs statewide.

While the report is filled largely with good news for businesses and consumers alike, it does call for some caution as the nation waits to see what direction the new federal government will take.

“While federal policy uncertainty is not weighing on the outlook today, the range of possible outcomes is large,” it says. “The most-discussed options generally fall into two camps when estimating their impact on Oregon. Some, like tax cuts, deregulation and infrastructure spending, are likely to impact Oregon to the same degree as most states. However, other possible policies like rolling back the Medicaid expansion, worsening trade relations and federal land policy changes are likely to have an outsized impact in Oregon relative to the typical state.”

According to the report, Oregon is the 10th to 15th most trade-dependent state in the U.S.

Some good news on the legislative front, too

On a national scale, Oregon’s Sen. Ron Wyden, in partnership with Missouri’s Sen. Roy Blunt, hopes to relieve some of the tax burden on the burgeoning craft beverage industry with the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, S.236. Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees excise taxes and alcohol regulations, issued a statement marking the bill’s introduction in late January: “Oregon’s economy earns significant benefits from the jobs and small business growth created by our state’s world-renowned craft beer, wine and spirits producers. This bill would ensure these industries no longer face the unfair burdens of Prohibition-era rules and taxes. My targeted approach to modernizing outdated regulations aims to build on the strengths of Oregon’s craft brewers, vintners and distillers so they have every opportunity to keep creating new jobs and economic opportunity in every corner of our state.”

Some of the state’s brewers, including Portland-based Eastside Distilling Inc., are voicing their support for the legislation. According to the company, the legislation—if passed—would help to ensure the continued growth of America’s craft beverage industry by reducing excise taxes, compliance burdens and regulations for brewers, cider makers, vintners and distillers.

“This legislation takes a tailored approach to promote job creation. The company believes that this comprehensive bill is supported by the entire craft beverage industry,” Eastside Distilling says in a press release.

If enacted, the legislation will lower the federal excise taxes paid by craft distilleries by 80 percent to $2.70 per gallon for the first 100,000 proof gallons. For Eastside, this means a savings of “several hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, with a maximum hypothetical reduction of approximately $1.1 million if production reaches 100,000 gallons.”

The act also would relax restrictions on tax-free transfers of spirits between distillers.

24/7 self-serve gasoline may be coming to rural areas

The Oregon Legislature is considering two bills that would allow consumers to self-serve at the gas pump at any time of day in rural counties.

Currently, self-service gasoline pumps are only allowed to operate from 6 p.m.-6 a.m. at stations that would otherwise be closed during those hours. House Bill 2482 would remove the 12-hour timeframe in counties with a population of less than 40,000, while HB 2458 would let the public use cardlock stations, already open around the clock for commercial vehicles, as self-service stations.

Rep. Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario), sponsor of HB 2482, originally sponsored the self-service legislation that passed last year. Bentz’s motivation has always been about the need for drivers to access fuel when traveling in rural parts of the state, where gas stations are separated by hundreds of miles, reports The Bend Bulletin.

“The whole concept was to allow self-service so we would have access to fuel. It was never about convenience,” Bentz said. “It was about having the fuel available if we would not otherwise have it.”

“There are fewer and fewer fuel stations available,” said Paul Romain, a lobbyist for the Oregon Fuels Association, which endorsed both pieces of legislation. “We are trying to get more stations open 24 hours a day in the rural part of the state.”

Bill could raise tobacco buying age

Oregon Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward has introduced legislation that would raise the tobacco buying age in the state to 21, KATU-TV reports.

“I am proud to continue working toward making Oregon the healthiest state in the nation by chief-sponsoring Tobacco 21,” Steiner Hayward says. “This is good for individuals’ well-being and good for our state overall.”

Legislation aimed at increasing the tobacco-buying age to 21 has gained steam across the country since Hawaii became the first state to enact similar legislation statewide in 2015. California became the second early last year. According to the National Association of Convenience Stores, more than 200 localities nationwide also have raised the legal age to 21.

But not everyone is behind the trend. David Sutton, a spokesman for tobacco producer and marketer Altria, tells KATU-TV in a statement that the company would prefer Congress address this issue.

“We support a minimum age of 18 for the sale of all tobacco products, as established in the federal Tobacco Control Act of 2009. That statute sets the national minimum age at 18, and required the FDA to study the public health implications of increasing the minimum age,” he says. “This is a complex issue, and Congress has established a thoughtful process to better understand it…We believe states and localities should defer to this process and give Congress the opportunity to evaluate this issue before enacting different minimum age laws.”

New store openings highlight Oregon’s continued growth

The food retail industry is a volatile one, and while every state experiences its share of openings and closures, much of the news coming out of Oregon is positive.

The Oregon Court of Appeals in February upheld the Land Use Board of Appeals’ decision to allow Costco to move forward with plans for a new store in Central Point after a legal battle over zoning issues, reports KOBI-TV 5, an affiliate of NBC. The 161,992-s.f. warehouse and gas station will be located on a little more than 18 acres at the southwest corner of Hamrick and Table Rock roads. According to the Mail Tribune, this location will serve as a replacement for Costco’s current location off Crater Lake Highway in Medford.

Green Zebra made its Portland State University debut at 1704 SW Broadway in February.

This is the third location for the “healthy convenience store,” which opened its first store in 2013. The new 4,200-s.f. campus store features local produce, a full deli and salad bar with healthy lunch and grab-and-go options, beer and wine, everyday grocery items, a coffee and tea bar, fresh meat and seafood as well as kombucha on tap and to-go.

Oregon’s 43rd Grocery Outlet Bargain Market opened earlier this year in La Pine, reports The Bulletin. The new store, located at 51420 U.S. Highway 97, is 18,000 s.f. and employs about 25 people. With 268 locations in the Northwest, West and Pennsylvania, Grocery Outlet stores offer shoppers discounts of 40-50 percent on groceries vs. conventional competitors’ prices. The “extreme value” stores carry fresh produce, fresh meat, organics, dry groceries, refrigerated and frozen foods, beer and wine, as well as health and beauty care items.

Colorado-based Natural Grocers also plans to debut a new store in Portland this spring. Natural Grocers sells fresh produce that is 100% USDA Certified Organic, other organic and natural products, and a mix of national brands and locally produced products. The stores also include a nutritional health coach and offer free nutrition education classes to the public. Natural Grocers operates more than 130 stores in 19 states.

In addition, California-based Asian supermarket chain 99 Ranch Market, operated by Tawa Supermarket Inc., plans to open its first store in Oregon, according to Maj Development Corp. The store is expected to open this spring in a former 43,000-s.f. Albertsons store at SW Greenway and Hall Boulevard in Beaverton.

99 Ranch, founded in 1984 and operating more than 40 stores in California, Nevada, Texas and Washington State, also recently opened its first East Coast store in a former Pathmark store (owned by A&P) in Edison, New Jersey. Two additional New Jersey locations are planned, in Jersey City and Hackensack.

*Editor’s note: This Oregon Market Profile also appears in the April 2017 print edition of The Shelby Report of the West.

About the author

Shelby Team

The Shelby Report delivers complete grocery news and supermarket insights nationwide through the distribution of five monthly regional print and digital editions. Serving the retail food trade since 1967, The Shelby Report is “Region Wise. Nationwide.”

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