Jobs Watch: The phantom exodus


The Oregonian took the unusual step this morning of running a front-page business story about an unnamed executive, CEO of “a successful technology company southwest of Portland employing hundreds and boasting a bright future.”

Was he unnamed because he is participating in the witness protection program?

Hardly. He’s thinking of skipping town.

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The Oregonian took the unusual step this morning of running a front-page business story about an unnamed executive, CEO of “a successful technology company southwest of Portland employing hundreds and boasting a bright future.”

Was he unnamed because he is participating in the witness protection program?

Hardly. He’s thinking of skipping town.

The gist of the story is that this phantom executive is considering gathering up his highly successful company and leaving Oregon, leading a devastating mass exodus of talent and capital, all because of the tax increases passed by the voters with Measures 66 and 67.

Well, here’s my own personal message to Mr. Phantom CEO: Don’t let the door hit you on the butt on the way out.

It’s not that I don’t care. I care deeply about the state of Oregon’s economy and would hate to see our job market deteriorate further. But the votes are in and the law is the law. And guess what? Oregon’s tax burden on businesses is far from the worst. It’s right there in the middle of the pack. Personal income tax is high, but that’s because Oregon has no sales tax. The end result is an imperfect but admirably progressive tax structure.

But it’s not the objective numbers that matter, apparently. “The far greater damage,” investor David Chen told the Oregonian, “is in how it disenfranchised business.”

Disenfranchised? Really? Did someone lose the right to vote?

Hardly. They just lost the vote. That doesn’t make you disenfranchised.

Now the states of Idaho, Utah, Montana and Ohio are joining our scavenger-like neighbors in Clark County and the grandstanding mayor of Chicago in welcoming Oregon businesses to move to greener pastures. The only problem is, their pastures aren’t greener, and their cities aren’t better for business. Anyone considering a move to any of those locations should consider the old adage that you get what you pay for. The winery tours aren’t quite the same in Utah, and the Ohio Coast doesn’t really compete with Oregon’s.

My qualm with all of this after-the-vote crying of wolf is this: It does not help. As anyone who tracks real estate or the stock market understands, perception matters. Sending out apocalyptic messages that Oregon businesses are so fed up that they might even move to Idaho is not helpful. Vowing to take your hundreds of jobs and abandon the community that helped you build your company is not helpful either.

Especially if you don’t have the guts to sign your name to it.

Ben Jacklet is mangaging editor of Oregon Business.




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