Economy, Business, Finance & Labor

Karen Richards

Governor John Kitzhaber visited Springfield today to tour the fire-devastated Swanson Mill and announced state help to rebuild it.

The plywood and veneer mill was destroyed last July in a massive fire, the cause of which is still unknown. The 33-acre site is now largely reduced to level concrete. Mayor Christine Lundberg says the blaze devastated the community:

Lundberg: “We lost not only an employer but we lost employees to the community so we’re enormously excited that Swanson has been able to see that this is the best site for them to rebuild.”

Shanice Stringer

In the 25 years that Springfield Habitat for Humanity has helped build affordable homes for low-income families, only three have paid off their mortgages. The Ramirez family is one of them, and they did it early. KLCC’s Tiffany Eckert joined them to celebrate the achievement.

In a ceremonial act, Alfonso and Edith Ramirez lit a copy of their 20 year mortgage on fire (click) and let it burn.

(sound of burning paper)

Every month, they’ve sent in the payments on their zero-interest Habitat for Humanity loan. Now, three years early, they are owners free and clear.

Angela Kellner

Six months ago, a devastating fire completely destroyed a plywood mill in Springfield. Today (Thursday), Swanson Group announced their plans to rebuild.

Once the smoke cleared, investigators ruled a lot of things out but could find no definitive cause for the fire. In October, the insurance company wrote out a settlement check. Swanson Group President and CEO Steve Swanson says that’s when they began the process of deciding the best way to use the insurance money.   

Lane County Saw High Rate of Foreclosures In December

Jan 15, 2015

Foreclosures rose in several Oregon counties during the month of December. Eugene based real estate buyer Gorilla Capital reported there were 753 foreclosures in 2014.

Lane County saw 94 foreclosures in December 2014. Ally  Leavitt with Gorilla Capital says the fourth quarter is traditionally slow for foreclosures, but the change in Oregon’s process could be a factor.

Amanda Peacher / OPB

This week we’re talking to Oregonians across the state who struggle with hunger. Yesterday we checked in with Tyra Lynn. We interviewed her more than a decade ago about her experience with food stamps, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. Today, we spend time with Lynn and her sister Constance Lee, who has a different take on accepting SNAP.

Tyra Lynn is rolling pie dough in her sister’s home in Mountain Home, Idaho.

Lynn: We’re going to need more flour. I’ve got barely enough flour and I’ve only made one pie crust.

Tara Lynn

In 2000 Oregon had the highest rate of hunger in the nation. Around that time, OPB’s Rob Manning spoke with Portlander Tyra Lynn, who struggled to feed her family and relied on food stamps. This fall, OPB found Lynn. We wanted to know whether her situation changed more than a decade later.

Life was hard for Tyra Lynn twelve years ago. Her husband had just lost his job, and the then 27-year-old mother of three had a hard time making ends meet.   

Hunger's Challenges Multiply In Remote Parts Of Oregon

Jan 13, 2015
Amanda Peacher / OPB

People who live in cities usually have a grocery store or a food pantry option within a few miles. But in rural communities, access to groceries with affordable fresh food is harder to come by.

Amanda Peacher / OPB

Nearly 15 years ago, Oregon had the highest rate of hunger in the nation. The state changed a number of policies to try to help. But the percentage of people facing hunger today is nearly as high as it was in 2000. In this series, we talk to Oregonians who struggle to put food on the table, and look at programs that provide support. Amanda Peacher reports on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Some scientists say the Pacific Northwest is overdue for a massive earthquake. In the past couple weeks, Business Oregon awarded grants to schools and emergency services for seismic upgrades. But, the Governor and others want to substantially increase that investment.


Despite Oregon having the 2nd highest minimum wage in the nation, low-wage workers in the state are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. That's the finding of a new report from the University of Oregon.

Lane County used to be the center of motor home manufacturing in Oregon, employing about 4,500 people. Then the recession hit. Only one of the RV makers survived. Marathon Coach announced Tuesday it plans to increase production and hire more workers.

Voices From Cannabis Country: Part 2

Dec 30, 2014
John Rosman / OPB

Last month, Oregonians voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Today, we bring you two more voices from residents of southwest Oregon talking about cannabis in their community.

First, we’ll hear from Jennifer Phillippi. She’s the owner of the last remaining sawmill in Josephine County.

Next is Richard Davis, known locally as Pa Butt. He’s a longtime medical marijuana grower. Davis spoke to us at his grow operation, where a deer he’s named Sugar Bob often joins him as he works.

Voices From Cannabis Country: Part 1

Dec 30, 2014
Wikimedia Commons

Last month, Oregonians voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Today and tomorrow, we bring you voices from southern Oregon, where pot is already an important part of the culture and economy.
Chelsea Rose is an archeologist in Jacksonville. Rose is fascinated by the oral history of pot and the grow sites she finds by accident. OPB joined her and local cat on a hike to an old grow site in the Applegate valley.

Oregon Department of Justice

Oregon's Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has made a list of naughty and nice charities. During the last few days of giving for 2014, it's important to research non-profits, and know how their funds are spent.

Ellen Klem is with the Oregon Department of Justice. She says it's encouraging that no Oregon-based groups made the list of 20 worst charities this year:

Klem: "I think one of the tips we've been encouraging Oregonians to keep in mind this holiday season is to donate locally. It's a wonderful feeling to see your donation in action here in the state."

Photo of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives, on Wikimedia Commons.

Members of a new national coalition say there's a link between start-up companies and the outdoors. And they are encouraging the federal government to expand national parks and monuments to accommodate the trend in the rising workforce. Conservation for Economic Growth Coalition includes a dozen CEO's of venture capital firms, and they say today's labor force wants an active, healthy lifestyle to accompany their work habits. Nancy Pfund is a Spokeswoman for DBL Investors.

The  unemployment rate in Lane County, as in the whole state of Oregon, has flattened out. 

Lane County's unemployment rate, established through a household survey, stood at 6.9 percent in November.  That's according to Brian Rooney, regional economist for the Oregon Employment Department. It's down only slightly from a 7.1 percent rate a year ago.

The Economic Impact Of Legal Marijuana In Oregon

Dec 19, 2014

Oregon is preparing for the economic impact of legal recreational marijuana, following the passing of Measure 91 by voters. KLCC's Desmond O'Boyle interviews Troy Dayton, CEO of a research group who publishes economic projections for business owners and entrepreneurs.

Economic indicators recently released by the University of Oregon show the state are showing improvement. October employment data was stronger in all areas except natural resources and mining sectors.

Manufacturing was particularly strong during the fall, suggesting the State is on par with national growth trends. The household sector is also stabilizing after years of negative data. Tim Duy is Director of the Economic Forum at the U of O. He says employment services, or temp resources are on the rise.

Kitzhaber Unveils $18.6 Billion Spending Plan

Dec 1, 2014
Chris Lehman

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has unveiled an $18.6 billion spending plan for the next two years. The Democrat outlined his proposal at the state capitol Monday. Roughly half of the money is marked for education. Kitzhaber says his budget also includes tax relief for low-income workers.

John Kitzhaber: "To ensure that hard work is actually rewarded with a better life…to ensure that when you get more wages, when your income goes up, you actually have more money, not less money in your pocket."

Wikimedia Commons

Chances are your utility bill has gone up this year. One small part of the reason may be that you’re paying for electricity that was never generated.   Northwest electricity customers got saddled with more than $2.5 million in payments for power they didn’t use.

Oregon experienced its largest one-month hiring boost in nearly 20 years in October. The Oregon Employment Department says 9,900 jobs were added. Still last month's unemployment rate remained flat at 7 percent.

David Cooke is an economist with the state Employment Department

Cooke: "We're seeing rapid employment growth, both from the payroll employment survey and the household survey. They're showing the same thing. But it looks like the labor force is expanding as more and more people jump into the labor market."

Helping Impoverished Children Starts With Parents

Nov 17, 2014
Bridge Meadows

Helping children in poverty needs to start with their parents. That's according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. There are approximately 126 thousand Oregon children under age 8 living below the poverty line. Most of their parents don't have a higher education degree and many don't have year round work. Children First for Oregon Spokeswoman Tonia Hunt says the State needs to work on ways to improve the family budget.

Roughly 90% of the fish consumed in the U.S. is imported. Half of that is farmed fish, a practice known as aquaculture farming. Compared to neighboring Washington, California, and Idaho, Oregon produces less than 6% of the total value of aquaculture products.  Jerry Gardner is a Business Developer for the Oregon Department of Agriculture. He says increasing aquaculture production could be an economic boost for the state.

Postal workers in Springfield and across the country are protesting today (Friday). It’s the last day the Board of Governors can vote to stop the closure of 82 facilities across the country.

The Springfield mail processing center is scheduled to be fully closed by next July. Peter Hass is a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service. He says the closure has been in the works for years, because of the steep decline in first class mail. Hass says the consolidation is part of a nation-wide service standard change:


Too early for holiday cheer? Not for Oregon’s 100-million dollar Christmas tree industry. November is the growers’ peak time for shipping. They’re taking extra measures this year to be sure fewer trees are rejected due to pests.

Oregon is the nation’s largest producer of Christmas trees, exporting six to seven million annually. Gary McAninch is with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. He says some Oregon species of slugs and yellow jackets cause big problems in places like Hawaii:

Households needing help on their winter heating bills can apply for assistance beginning Monday. Federal funding has been released to the states for the low income energy assistance program, or LIHEAP.

Mary Ellen Bennett is the LIHEAP Coordinator for Lane County. She expects about 8,000 households will receive assistance this year, which is on par with last year. Bennett says several factors determine how much help is given:

Rowan Moore Gerety / Northwest Public Radio

Maybe you remember those glossy Red Delicious Washington apples they served in your grade school cafeteria. Well, Washington growers are expecting a record crop of apples this year, but not of Red Delicious. Most American consumers have moved on and growers are doing their best to keep up.

UO Foundation

Eugene Water and Electric has chosen the University of Oregon Foundation as developer of its property along the Willamette River. EWEB Commissioners made the selection from three candidates at their Tuesday meeting.

The vote was 4 to 0. Joe Harwood is spokesman for EWEB. He says commissioners felt the U of O Foundation has a long term commitment to the community.

B&Bs Vs. Airbnb: Struggling With Short-Term Rentals

Sep 30, 2014
Bill McLean / JPR

New online companies have emerged where private residents offer travelers a place to stay for the night, often at rates cheaper than hotels or bed and breakfast outfits.

Ashland, Oregon is one of the global hotspots trying to reconcile a clash between the traditional hospitality industry and a growing market of private residents trying to make a few bucks renting out a spare room or two.

Ashland resident Tom DuBois rented an unused bedroom to overnight travelers at his house in a single-family residential neighborhood zoned R-1. Then he got a letter from the city.

Oregon's Bureau of Labor and Industries will be touring the state during the next few months updating landlords on new Section 8 housing rules.

A law recently passed in Oregon makes it illegal to deny housing for someone who qualifies for low income housing known as Section 8. The first of 15 seminars is September 29th in Portland. State Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian says the goal is to inform landlords about the changes so they don't accidently run afoul.