Local leaders are cautiously hopeful for local economy

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By LACY RAMIREZ
For the Keizertimes

Local business and political leaders said at an economic summit in Keizer last week that while the economy is well on its way to recovery, it continues to remain in a fragile state.

The summit, sponsored by Marion County’s Economic Development Advisory Board, took place on Wednesday, Oct. 17 at the Keizer Civic Center. Specialists from both the public and private sectors, including Mayor Lore Christopher, gave updates on the economic status of the county, as well as the state as a whole, and discussed different options for improvement.

The topics examined during the summit included real estate, tax revenue, the urban growth boundary expansion, job training, regional planning and tourism. The top discussions of the night were those related to job creation and the housing market.

Christopher talked about the benefits of the Keizer Station, the greatest being of it having created local jobs.

“Six out of seven people leave the city for their job, but not those working at Keizer Station,” Christopher said.

Van Khieu, an appraiser currently running for the Marion County Assessor’s seat, and Jay Gordon, executive vice president of the Willamette Valley Multiple Listing Service, provided facts and statistics regarding the housing market. Although 30 percent of the American housing market are foreclosures, the amount of foreclosures occurring has recently dropped by 15 percent both nationally and locally. Foreclosures make up approximately 3 percent of the market locally.

“As of 2011, 25 percent of foreclosures are strategic defaults,” Gordon said. A strategic default is when a homeowner defaults on mortgage and stops paying, hoping to get lower payments when they have the income to afford it.

Despite the amount of foreclosures, Gordon assured the audience that this was the ideal time to buy a home.

“This time, I really mean it,” Gordon said.

Gordon said that no matter how bad the market gets, it would never fall due to the fact that there would always be people buying and selling houses simply because there would always be reasons, such as divorces, births, deaths, and employment, which make up one-third of the market.

Alan Roodhouse, president of Retail Property Service Development Inc., and Jim Rue, director of the Oregon Department of Land Use and Conservation, spoke over the urban growth expansion and agreed with one another on solutions. Roodhouse stated specific goals that would help stimulate economic growth while Rue gave some concepts that could possibly be applied to help expand the UGB. Rue approached the situation with slightly more positivity than Roodhouse, who gave a more negative outlook, although they both expressed hope for the county’s future.

“Oregon is losing,” Roodhouse said. “I am used to losing a lot of things, but I have come to love Oregon and I would love to see it fixed.” One solution he proposed was to limit who has standing to appeal regarding an issue, such as Area C. Roodhouse is a co-developer on the project, which was remanded back to the city council by the state.

This led into another hot topic of the night: job creation.

Many ideas were expressed in the room on the best ways to create more jobs, particularly locally, but the ones that were dwelled upon were job training, a specific development strategy and tourism.

Nick Harville, Industrial Maintenance Operator with Strategic Economic Development Corporation (SEDCOR), talked about the importance of older generation training younger ones before their knowledge disappears. “We don’t have 10 to 20 years to learn these skills,” Harville said. “We need them now.”

The night ended with a bright note of positivity from Angie Morris, president and CEO of Travel Salem. Tourism is adding to the economy more every year, creating jobs like no other, she said. A single dollar spent toward tourism brings a return on investment (ROI) of $193 in visitor spending.

“Tourism is the front door to economic growth,” Morris said. “We have the best of what Oregon has to offer, right where we are seated. Let’s make the best of it.”

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