Oregon governor candidates: What would they do to help Oregon businesses stay competitive?

Oregon’s next governor will face immediate questions about the state’s business climate, with outgoing Gov. Kate Brown and prominent state lawmakers pushing for action on an agenda of reforms designed to attract semiconductor manufacturers.

States across the country are racing to capture a share of the $52 billion in chip industry incentives that Congress approved last summer. Oregon has one of the densest concentrations of electronics manufacturers in the nation but has missed out on the industry’s recent building boom. The new governor will have to decide right away whether to work with lawmakers to pursue the proposals in front of her to increase incentives, expand industrial land, boost workforce training and streamline regulations.

During the campaign, the candidates have expressed support for pursuing the chipmakers but have also conveyed an interest in broader reforms to improve Oregon’s business climate.

The Oregonian/OregonLive asked the three leading candidates for governor, Republican Christine Drazan, Democrat Tina Kotek and unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson, how they would try to boost Oregon’s competitiveness, including for businesses already in the state. The news organization also asked the candidates how they would balance attempts to aid businesses with protecting tax revenues that governments use to build and maintain infrastructure and the state’s natural resources such as water, which is in high-demand by data centers that have flocked to the state. Here are their answers.

Oregon recently lost out to Ohio on Intel’s big expansion. How can the state ensure Oregon businesses remain competitive, while also contributing to state and local services and protecting our resources such as water?

Kotek: “Advanced manufacturing is important to Oregon, and I’ll support the growth of that sector.

“One of the key things for Oregon to be a competitive place to do business is an available,

trained workforce. Businesses won’t put Oregon on their list, or be able to grow here, if they

can’t meet their workforce needs. So, as Governor, I will:

● “Make sure we have the public education and workforce training to meet the needs of our


● “Build more housing that middle class families can afford.

● “Fix the uneven broadband coverage across the state.

● “Invest in Oregon’s child care system to support working parents.”

Johnson: “Oregon has to start working with businesses, not against them. The best way to protect our resources is to bring together the concerns of the conservation community with the needs of job creators to better understand how we can find solutions to balance our resources against opportunities for our state.”

Drazan: “There are countless reasons why employers are choosing to invest elsewhere, but it truly comes back to leadership at the end of the day. I refuse to believe that we cannot both protect our environment and promote economic growth. We simply have not had leadership that is willing to put in the hard work to make it happen.

“My administration will work to bring good jobs and new investment to Oregon without sacrificing our environment and quality of life. We need to provide businesses with certainty – both when it comes to taxes and new regulations. Right now, Oregon is simply too risky of an investment for many investors.”

Technology business reporter Mike Rogoway contributed to this report.

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— Hillary Borrud; hborrud@oregonian.com; @hborrud

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