The economic future of Northwest Oregon hinges on our skilled workers, innovative companies and envious position along the Pacific Rim.
The North Coast depends on successful manufacturers like Lektro, which sells its tug vehicles for airplanes to destinations around the world, from Singapore and China to Russia and the Ukraine.
That's why I went out to Clatsop County on Thursday 10/27/2011; I visited with Lektro employees to speak about what's at stake in the Special Election to fill the First District's vacant congressional seat. Lektro's workers understand that jobs here in Oregon are dependent on the ability to sell goods and services halfway around the world. In fact, a recent Brookings Institute study concluded that 268,000 jobs in the Portland region are trade dependent. Just ask Lektro.
In a recent conversation with Eric Paulson, owner of Lektro, he told me, "If it weren't for our ability to sell our goods overseas, I don't know how we would have survived the last economic recession."
The North Coast has a nearly 200-year history of serving as a critical trading post, the gateway to Oregon exports and partners' imports. John Jacob Astor, the namesake of Astoria, was the founder of a trading empire centered here. Yet today, two Democrat candidates in the Special Election boast that they would have voted against the recently approved trade agreements in Congress, despite President Obama's insistence they be passed as a job creating mechanism for American businesses. The third Democrat candidate simply refuses to decide how she would have voted. For a trade-dependent state like Oregon, how can we afford such lack of leadership? Any congressional candidate opposed to trade simply doesn't understand the unique nature of the very area they hope to represent. As a native Oregonian, I do.
Having spent my professional life creating jobs and training others in preparation for careers, I understand the rigors of sustaining a successful business with productive employees. While some like to talk about creating jobs, I've actually done it. That is why job creation is the centerpiece of my campaign to represent Oregon's First District in Congress.
For too long, ours has been the "Forgotten District" in Congress. Over the last thirteen years we have lacked effective leadership and advocacy on the vital issues of global trade and job creation. Now, we are the only district in the country without a representative in Congress -- a sad distinction at a time when our region's economy is teetering and we need a champion for policies that will put Oregonians back to work.
Lektro symbolizes the great manufacturing backbone that has made this country great. But Eric is worried. Every time he picks up a newspaper, he reads about a new tax plan or regulatory scheme coming from Washington, D.C. He hears candidates saying they won't support new trade agreements. If he adds more employees, his business costs could soar if his overseas sales dry up.
Why should we worry about Eric's business? Without the ability to sell vehicles around the world, Lektro would be reduced to half its current size. That means roughly 30 workers (and families) would lose their jobs. If Lektro and other local businesses can't hire, then we have no hope of restoring Oregon's economy.
Here's the solution: We need to create certainty for small business owners and those who would invest in Oregon by simplifying the tax code, reducing burdensome regulation, encouraging entrepreneurs, and opening up trade opportunities. Stifling regulations that hurt our traditional industries -- like fishing and timber -- must be reconsidered. While responsible regulation is needed to manage our natural resources and provide sustainability, an abundance of regulation isn't the answer.
If elected to serve the First District, I will be a staunch advocate for sound economic policies, including free and fair trade, that will give business owners like Lektro's Eric Paulson the confidence to start hiring again. As a business owner myself, I know that is how we reset Oregon's First District on the path to prosperity.
Rob Cornilles is a candidate for Oregon's First Congressional District. With his wife, Allison, Rob founded a small business in Tualatin 16 years ago that they grew into a leader in his industry. They have three sons and live in Tualatin. Learn more at www.CornillesForCongress.com.