Oregon Economic Overview
During the past two decades, Oregon has been trying to shift its resource-based economy to one with a diversified manufacturing and high-tech base. Oregon exports some $16.5 billion worth of products to foreign countries annually, which is almost 10 percent of its gross state product (GSP) of $158.2 billion. A major industry in Oregon is the gambling provided by nine casinos operated by Native American tribes, which generate more than $507 million in annual revenue. Oregon has one of highest revenues in the nation from gambling, ranking behind only Las Vegas in types of games offered. The highest paid jobs in the state are in securities and other financial investments (average annual pay $143,792), computer and electronic product manufacturing and their suppliers ($92,400), and utilities ($84,328).
Like many western states, Oregon’s first industry in the 19th century was fur trading. In the 1840s, settlers began to arrive and work the soil. The discovery of gold in the 1850s and 1860s brought a further increase in population, one that branched out into salmon fishing, logging, and cattle ranching. The arrival of the railroad in 1883 enabled Oregon’s wheat and lumber to reach a wider market and led to the expansion of cities.
By the 1890s, the growth of sheep herding led to competition for available rangeland, resulting in the outbreak of the so-called Sheepshooters War in 1896. By the time peace was restored in 1906, several shepherds and thousands of sheep had been killed. Factories, farms, and mills flourished beyond the time of World War I, but the Great Depression in the 1930s caused severe unemployment, particularly in the timber industry.
The construction of the Bonneville Dam in 1937 gave industry a boost, and when hydroelectric units were added in 1943, the dam was able to supply abundant, cheap power. New industries joined those that developed during World War II, and postwar manufacturing flourished.
In the 1980s, Oregon’s traditional industries of agriculture, fishing, and lumber were hard-hit. While Oregon encouraged high-tech firms to do business in the state, the dot-com collapse in the 1990s resulted in a loss of 43,000 jobs. A construction boom between 2004 and 2007 provided 21,000 jobs in construction, but the residential mortgage crisis in 2007 erased some of these gains.
Some 38,600 farms in Oregon contribute almost $4.3 billion to the state economy. The leading agricultural products in the state are hay ($613 million), wheat ($340 million), potatoes ($211 million), onions ($97 million), grapes for wine ($71 million), and pears ($70 million). Cherries, corn, blueberries, cranberries, and peppermint are also contributors to the agricultural economy. The organic sector yields produce worth some $88 million annually, while cows and calves account for $426 million, and the fish industry reels in another $125 million. Oregon grows 99 percent of the nation’s commercial hazelnut crop.
BANKING AND FINANCE
Forty FDIC banking institutions operate in the state, with combined deposits of $18.1 billion. More than 30,000 people in Oregon are employed in almost 3,000 companies in the financial industry, earning a combined payroll of some $1.5 billion. Some 45 percent work in commercial banking, followed by 16 percent in non-depository credit intermediation, and 13 percent working for credit unions. Mortgage and non-mortgage loan brokers employ nine percent of this workforce, followed by savings institutions, at seven percent.
Fifty newspapers are published in Oregon, and 16 television and 249 radio stations broadcast in the state. Oregon Telephone Corporation, serving 10 cities, has been operating since 1914. It is working to replace 386 miles of copper cable with fiber optic cable. The Oregon telecommunications industry is seeking to develop a wide range of consumer services over a public, switched broadband network. There are some 2,100 telecommunications companies in Oregon, which employ about 18,000 people and have estimated annual sales of $874 million.
Oregon’s construction industry employs roughly 77,200 workers (six percent of the state’s non-farm workforce), whose average annual wage of $46,029 is about $5,500 more than the average state wage. More than $6.2 billion worth of construction took place in the state in 2008, with commercial construction accounting for more than $3.8 billion. Of this amount, more than $2.3 billion went for nonresidential building construction and $1.5 billion went for nonbuilding and heavy construction.
There are about 200 public school districts in Oregon serving approximately 559,200 elementary and secondary school students. Some 55 colleges, community colleges, and universities provide higher education, with the University of Oregon having an enrollment of almost 22,400 students and an endowment of $497 million. Oregon State University has almost 22,000 students and an endowment of $476 million.
More than two thirds (69 percent) of Oregon’s electricity is generated by hydropower. This is followed by natural gas, at 20 percent; coal, at eight percent; and renewable energy, at three percent. The largest energy consuming sector in Oregon is transportation, which accounts for 30 percent. Oregon has 93 alternative fuel stations that supply fuels such as biomass and biodiesel and account for four percent of the total amount of fuel stations. Oregon also exports electricity to California.
Oregon offers a plethora of varied shooting locations for film producers, with more real ghost towns than any other state, mountains, coastline, deserts, and lava flows—not to mention tax incentives. The Governor’s Office of Film and Television has been attracting companies to film in the state for more than three decades, and dozens of films have been shot there in the past few years alone. The direct annual impact of the film industry in Oregon includes $709.6 million in output, $294.3 million in wages, and more than 6,300 jobs. Total economic impact on the state is some $1.4 billion, $624.9 million for labor, and 13,336 jobs. Full-time employees earned an average salary of $53,118.
More than 3,900 people are employed by property-casualty insurers in the state, at a combined annual salary of $245 million. State premium taxes contribute around $50 million to the GSP, and insurance companies paid out $1.2 billion in 2008 for losses covered by auto insurance, $321.9 million for losses covered by homeowners insurance, and $1.4 billion worth of commercial losses. In Oregon, 90 cents of every dollar that is paid in premiums goes to pay for medical claims.
A total of 5,975 manufacturers employ around 222,660 workers in Oregon, with an annual combined payroll of some $9.8 billion. Manufacturing accounts for about 15 percent of Oregon’s $158.2 billion GSP. The largest industrial sector is lumber and wood products, which employs 36,118 workers. Electronics ranks second, with 29,042 jobs, followed by food products, with 28,543 jobs. Portland is the leading manufacturing city, with 47,289 jobs. Nine Coca-Cola bottling plants operate in the state.
MINING AND EXTRACTION
Oregon is home to 304 mining operations, which provide jobs for 2,920 employees at an annual average salary of $48,000. Workers' combined annual payroll totals $140 million. Around $510 million of minerals, metals, and fuel are produced annually in the state. Construction sand, gravel, and crushed stone account for 65 percent of the state’s extracted products. Oregon was the only producer of nickel in the country until the Nickel Mountain Mine closed in 1998, but it still ranks first for the amount of pumice produced, second for perlite, and third for the amount of diatomite and zeolites mined, which are used as ammonia absorbents in aquariums.
There are 25,388 nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations operating in Oregon, with a combined annual income of $109 billion and $76 billion worth of assets. The highest income reported by one organization was $48 billion, but the average income is $10.5 million. Out of the 25,388 organizations, 11,405 are charitable, 3,504 are educational, 3,037 are religious, and the rest are comprised of social welfare organizations, labor organizations, burial associations, and literary organizations.
Oregon’s varied retail industry employs around 196,000 workers at an average annual salary of $25,489. The total payroll is around $5 billion, and more than 13 percent of the state’s private workforce is employed by the retail sector. General merchandise stores employ the most workers, followed by food and beverage stores, motor vehicle dealers, and clothing stores. As in most states, Walmart is a significant presence, with 16 supercenters and 14 discount stores. Walmart’s employees number 10,250 and the corporation collects more than $12.5 million in sales tax in Oregon annually.
Although Oregon lost 4,000 high-tech jobs in 2009, small companies with a handful of employees working on laptops are sprouting up in the state. Intel, the largest high-tech employer in the state, closed some of its factories but is not moving out of Oregon, and IBM also has a presence in the state. There are an estimated 71,000 IT employees in Oregon, with more than 85 percent of them employed in firms other than high-tech manufacturing. In 2006, there were some 850 firms in the Portland area alone, with 13,420 software employees working at an average annual salary of $88,800.
Oregon’s bioscience sector has more than 600 establishments and 13 life science research institutions, specializing in everything from novel drug delivery and agricultural research to pharmaceuticals, molecular biology research, and anti-cancer drugs. The sector generates combined revenue of $6.2 billion and accounts for more than 37,000 jobs.
Oregon’s transportation system includes 2,430 miles of railroad, used to transport more than 68 million tons of cargo annually. Trucking accounts for around 80 percent of all freight shipped through the state. There are 23 Oregon ports, divided between the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River. The busiest, the Port of Portland, handles 28.5 million tons of cargo and almost $700 million of business revenue. Public airports in Oregon contribute around $8 billion to the state economy yearly, and Portland International Airport, the largest in the state, handles some 14.5 million passengers and more than 270,000 tons of freight annually.
TRAVEL AND TOURISM
Tourism in Oregon is a thriving $8.3 billion business, and provides jobs for more than 132,000 employees at a combined annual salary of $3.3 billion. More than 21 million visitors stay overnight annually. In addition to the city of Portland, major tourist destinations include Mount Hood, the Oregon Coast, and the wine region of the Willamette Valley. Oregon’s Carousel Museum contains the largest collection of carousel horses in the world, and one of the world’s largest log cabins (built in 1905) is located in Portland. The largest sea cave in the world (Sea Lion Caves in Florence), the first U.S. National Scenic Area (Columbia River Gorge), and the deepest lake in the country (Crater Lake) are also found in Oregon, and draw numerous tourists.
The timber industry has traditionally been one of Oregon’s mainstays; the state supplies 15 percent of the country’s lumber, at 5.5 billion feet per year. Since Oregon’s wood products are sold throughout the country, the national housing market has a major impact on local lumber companies. The usual number of workers in the timber industry is around 85,600, and the timber industry adds $3.3 billion to the gross state product, but due to the recent worldwide economic crisis, more than a dozen of Oregon’s mills have closed.
Gambling has become a major industry in Oregon, following the passage of the Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988. Native American tribes operate nine casinos throughout the state and generate more than $507 million in annual revenue. Oregon has one of highest revenues in the nation from gambling and ranks behind only Las Vegas in types of games offered. Revenues generated by the casinos finance tribal government, the welfare and economic development of tribal members, and charitable contributions.
The casinos also help support the local economies by attracting tourists. Besides casinos, many bars, taverns, and restaurant lounges have lottery video poker machines and video slots. Horse racing offering pari-mutuel wagering is also popular in the state. The once shady image of gambling has become so acceptable in Oregon that the University of Oregon and Oregon State have signed multiyear marketing agreements with casinos that include rights to advertise at the schools' football, basketball, and baseball games.
-World Trade Press