I’ve watched a steady stream of friends and business colleagues exit Oregon. None have done it willingly or proudly. In virtually every case they have fretted for years over their decision and left with a heart heavy with the frustration of having tried to affect some change in hopes that Oregon will regain its footing and reclaim its heritage as a place to establish and grow both your family and your business. Sometimes they wait until retirement and take just their wealth and their experience. Sometimes they can’t wait and they take their business, their investment, sometimes their employees (those who will go) and their sense of community to another state. Because they are businessmen and women with deep roots in their communities, they not only leave reluctantly, they leave quietly. There are never threats, there are seldom angry statements, and when someone does inquire, the response is generally, "It’s just time for a change." But in their private conversations, they are articulate, adamant and determined. They hate the high taxes, they hate the smothering regulation and they hate the indifference of Oregon’s governing class. They love Oregon but have reached the point where the price of Oregon’s "quality of life" is too high and, in some instances, detached from the reality of the rest of the world. I write this because another friend of mine has chosen to leave. He is the essence of the American Dream. An Oregonian for 46 years who started with nothing but an idea and a firm conviction and developed a world class business providing products and services to those who could least afford the existing alternatives. Along the way he has created well paying jobs for hundreds of Oregonians, a head start for new families and a history of charitable participation in Oregon’s communities. And now he is leaving. I wanted you to hear his reasons: "Over the years I have made a few poor investments in the stock market and along with others of like kind, we took a bigger hit because we hung around too long. My opinion of Oregon is that it too is a bad investment for the time being, I’ve been hanging around too long and it’s time to shift to another more promising opportunity for my employees and their families. "More than a month ago I moved all my administrative offices to [a neighboring state] including my employee residences. The reasons were tax related as well as, and primarily, to escape the eroding business environment of Oregon. We refuse to [transact business] in the City of Portland and Multnomah County, – and expect the list to grow. . ." "The moves were major events as we gave up a lot (such as a network of [suppliers and subcontractors] established over the past 36 years) in the process. This should be a clear indicator that we have lost hope that Oregon, a unique state populated by many unique people, will improve within the next fifteen years irrespective of the efforts. . . "One might believe that it is the "cocktail, golfing, luncheon" elites that are leaving because they want to take their Oregon-acquired wealth out-of-state to selfishly hoard it. In my case, that is not true. Yes, I’m a big wage earner, and 9% of my income is such a big number that it commands attention. It’s not the money however. It’s all about where that hard-earned, risk-taking money is going, – how it is being spent that rubs me raw.He talks for example of the foolishness of the Portland city commission deciding to fund their campaigns from taxpayer funds in lieu of delivering needed services, or the Oregon Supreme Court deciding to invalidate reforms to PERS instead of ensuring that money is available for classrooms. He is particularly critical of the blank stares on the faces of politicians who are so ignorant of business basics that you just as well being speaking Farsi to them He compares his leaving to a divorce – not wanted, unduly expensive but apparently necessary. He notes wryly, "My guess is that many other businesses would do likewise if it were easy to do so." Tim Boyle, president of Columbia Sportswear, said practically the same things in a speech to the Portland Business Alliance. He was widely chastised by the Portland business and political community, not for speaking the truth, but for speaking at all. And here’s the point. You can disagree. You can say he doesn’t know what he is talking about. You can claim that the "poor business climate" is an "urban myth." You can keep your head firmly in the sand, but he left and other are leaving because they believe it and it is their business.
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