558 N. Main St., Prineville, OR 97754 | (541) 447-6205
Room for improvement
Although Crook County no longer has the lowest employment rate, the economy still has plenty of room for improvement
November 26, 2012
Recent economic reports offer a hint of improvement in Crook County and statewide, but still suggest the community faces an uphill battle in the years ahead.
Perhaps the biggest news locally is that Crook County, after more than three years, no longer sits dead last in unemployment rate among the 36 Oregon counties. The recently-released October rates show that Crook County improved from 13.8 percent in September to 13.5 percent. Meanwhile, the Grant County unemployment rate, which was 13.6 percent in September, went unchanged in October, leaving them 0.1 percent higher than Crook County.
“Obviously, I am pleased,” said Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe. “It hasn’t come down much . . . so we still have a long way to go.”
She attributed the modest improvement to the presence of the new Apple data center, which is now under construction. In addition, the City has tried to help existing companies maintain success in Prineville.
“I think things are picking up a little bit,” Roppe said. “Our data centers not only help with construction, but they also help all of our local businesses.” In particular, she said they have boosted the local restaurant, grocery, and rental industries.
Oregon Representative Mike McLane (R-Dist. 55) did not give the unemployment rate news for Crook County the same enthusiastic review. He does not consider Grant County’s rise in unemployment good news locally.
“Having lost the distinction of most unemployed county by a tenth of a point is not satisfactory to me,” he said.
McLane gave a similar review to Oregon’s recently-released revenue forecast. The Oregon Office of Economic Analysis forecast for December 2012 showed slight improvements, with a forecasted $13.914 billion in general fund and lottery fund revenue for the 2011-13 biennium — an increase of $30.4 million over the September 2012 report. The December report also forecasted $15.477 billion in general fund and lottery fund revenue for the 2013-15 biennium — $54 million more than the September forecast.
Although the report suggests improved revenue for the State of Oregon, McLane did not celebrate the results.
“Today’s forecast suggests that Oregon’s economy remains stagnant,” he said. “Tax revenues have stabilized in the short-term but there’s not enough good news in this forecast for the 160,000 Oregonians who can’t find work.”
Locally, McLane feels the forecast shows a lack of improvement in the State’s natural resource-based economy to offer long-term encouragement.
“Oregon needs to do a better job of having a more balanced approach with use of natural resources,” he said.
McLane added that Oregon will struggle to fund education and other services, and that lawmakers will need to focus on private-sector job growth to improve the economy.
“The suggested decline in long-term revenues indicates these problems won’t go away unless tough decisions are made now,” he said.