Kralj Quoted in The Bulletin

No recession on horizon in Central Oregon, nation
Panelists talk strengths, threats to local and national economy

by Stephen Hamway

Central Oregon’s economic expansion has slowed, but that doesn’t mean another recession is around the corner, according to the panel at the annual Economic Forecast Breakfast, presented Thursday by the Bend Chamber of Commerce.

“A recovery doesn’t die of old age,” said panelist Mark Kralj, a principal member of Portland investment firm Ferguson Wellman Capital Management and one of three panelists.

The forecast, held at the Riverhouse on the Deschutes convention center, centered around potential pitfalls for Central Oregon, from sluggish national economic growth rates to Measure 97, which will appear on Oregon ballots in November.

Kralj and fellow panelist Tim Duy, professor of economics at the University of Oregon and director of the Oregon Economic Forum, described the national economy as “muddling along.” Duy added that both Central Oregon and Oregon overall are outpacing the national average, thanks in part to an increase in manufacturing and technology jobs.

“There’s no reason we should think this is going to stop anytime soon,” Duy said.

Roger Lee, panelist and executive director for Economic Development for Central Oregon, said the number of manufacturing jobs in Deschutes County rose by more than 37 percent from 2010 through 2015. Kralj cited a poll released by the Bay Area Council, a business-sponsored advocacy group in the San Francisco Bay Area, which suggested that more than one-third of that region’s residents want to leave. Bend and Oregon overall have been among the recipients of migration from the region. Additionally, Redmond Airport has seen a significant uptick in passenger arrivals and departures, an indicator of economic activity in the region.

“We’re really hitting on all cylinders as far as air service in Central Oregon,” Lee said

Because of the growth in the region, Bend has a new set of problems to worry about, including rising housing demand and increased pressure on Bend-La Pine Schools, which is now the fifth-largest school district in the state, according to Lee.

Lee identified Measure 97 and a potential bursting of the tech bubble as issues to keep an eye on going forward. If the tech bubble bursts, fewer companies will migrate to Oregon, Lee said. He added that Measure 97, which would tax gross sales for business with Oregon sales over $25 million, could result in the loss of 37,000 private sector jobs.

“I don’t think anyone would argue that we don’t need other revenue sources,” Kralj added. “But we don’t need to attack it with a sledgehammer, and, unfortunately, I think that’s what (Measure) 97 does.”

While there were concerns about another national recession earlier in the year, thanks to issues in the energy sector, Duy said that was unlikely to happen for the foreseeable future.

“There’s no rule of law that says we have to have a recession,” Duy said.