Oregon Drops Nine Places in Best Places To Do Business Survey

Right From the Start

Each year ChiefExecutive.net surveys chief executive officers from across the nation on the best places to do business. The 2012 list is introduced as follows:

“This year, 650 business leaders responded to our annual survey, up from 550 in 2011. CEOs were asked to grade states in which they do business among a variety of areas, including tax and regulation, quality of workforce and living environment.”

In this survey Texas finished first for the second year in a row while California finished last for the eighth year in a row. But the most stunning move was by Oregon, which dropped nine places – the largest downward change for any state – to forty-second. (Only Louisiana had a larger change as it moved up fourteen places from twenty-seventh to thirteenth.)

You can argue all you want about the metrics of various studies and surveys but this is the one that counts. This is the one where perception becomes reality because these are the opinions of the decision-makers – the people who decide whether to locate, expand or retreat from participation in Oregon. It is notable that the survey comes from CEOs who were asked to only “grade states in which they do business.” The survey reports actual comments by some of the CEOs:

“Oregon is a great place to start a business, but all successful businesses move out when the founder leaves. And so does he. The tax structure drives all movable wealth out of the state.

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“Oregon has taken the approach during the recession that since business tax revenues and personal tax revenues are down, it is not their job to help ease the burden and create easier competitive environment, but instead to increase taxes and regulatory fees to keep government in place. That attitude has crushed many businesses in Oregon and caused most of our customer base to leave the state.”

No where in the survey does the progress on saving salmon appear. No where in the survey does progress on deploying light rail appear. No where in the survey does “sustainable economy” appear. No where in the survey does “green jobs” appear. And no where in the survey does the viability of the Oregon Health Plan appear. And yet all of these items have found their way into the discussions and priorities of the Oregon Business Plan.

Recently the issue of comprehensive tax reform has entered the agenda of the Oregon Business Plan, but Oregon’s twenty-five plus years of Democrat administrations are having none of it and while there may be objections among the leaders of the Oregon Business Plan, there certainly is no action.

What does appear as an element in the survey is the quality of education – an item that appears routinely in the Oregon Business Plan. And just as routinely, the performance of Oregon schools vis-à-vis schools in other states, and more importantly in other countries, continues to decline. A recent study published in the Daily Beast demonstrates that the best efforts of the Oregon Business Plan and Oregon’s politicians have failed. According to the Daily Beast, the survey represents:

“This year, our ranking highlights the best 1,000 public high schools in the nation—the ones that have proven to be the most effective in turning out college-ready grads. The list is based on six components provided by school administrators: graduation rate (25 percent), college matriculation rate (25 percent), AP/IB/AICE tests taken per student (25 percent), average SAT/ACT scores (10 percent), average AP/IB/AICE scores (10 percent), and AP courses offered per student (5 percent).”

Despite the hundreds of millions of dollars thrown at Oregon’s public schools, and the presumed attention of those participating in the Oregon Business plan, only one school was able to rank in the top 100 – Corbett High School is ranked 25th. You have to go all the way to 607th place before you pick up another Oregon school and all the way to 908th before you pick up a Portland school. Even where the CEOs surveyed agree with priorities such as education, they disagree with the solutions (just more money) applied in Oregon and the consistent insistence that the solutions (just more money) are correct despite two decades of failure.

It’s not that CEOs surveyed disagree with many of these issues; rather it is the priority given to them and the waste in attending to them. It is also the automatic exclusion of any of the priorities of these CEOs surveyed that causes distress.

Oregon is in trouble. Not because of its people, but because of its politicians and a Portland dominated business community that refuses to hold those politicians accountable. Oregon’s business community has a choice. It can stop deferring to the dominant liberal party and battle for changes that will allow Oregon’s economy to grow again. Or, it can do as the comment in ChiefExecutive.net suggested:

Oregon is a great place to start a business, but all successful businesses move out when the founder leaves. And so does he. The tax structure drives all movable wealth out of the state.” [Emphasis supplied]