Thursday, December 05, 2013

Oregon economist fears downward spiral in 13 rural counties with more deaths than births lately

Oregon state economist Mark McMullen expressed his concern that the "fast-aging rural population hinders economic growth and could lead to a long-term downward spiral of labor and job shortages in rural areas," Yuxing Zheng reports for The Oregonian. In 2010, deaths outnumbered births in 13 Oregon counties, all of them rural. (State Office of Economic Analysis graphic; click on image for larger version) 
McMullen, speaking Wednesday at the Human Service Coalition of Oregon's annual meeting, said "Rural Oregon is aging incredibly fast, much more so than the rest of the state, who are able to continue to attract these young, working-age households. Once you start losing the work force, it’s hard to talk firms into setting up shop in your rural area. With no jobs, you're not going to get any young migrant families. With no workers, you get no jobs, and this becomes a very negative cycle."

Some say the best long-term solution "is to boost logging and tap natural resources available in rural counties," Zheng writes. Democratic Senator Ron Wyden last week introduced his proposal to boost logging on more than 2 million acres of Oregon & California Railroad forest lands. "Until timber executives, environmental groups and federal lawmakers reach a long-elusive agreement, Oregon might need to intervene in struggling rural counties. Under the terms of a law passed this year, Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber—with the approval of county commissioners—can impose taxes to maintain basic public-safety services. The state would match any of the taxes imposed by the governor." (Read more)

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