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Q&A: Martin Brantley on Oregon's economy

'We dug a deep hole, and it's going to take a couple years to dig out.'Professional background

Martin Marty Brantley, 59, directs the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department. He was president of KPTV-TV in Portland from 1983 until his retirement in 2000. He joined KPTV as national sales manager in 1975. Before that, he worked as an account executive at KGO-TV and KTVU-TV, both in San Francisco. He began his broadcasting career in 1965 at WMAL-TV (now WJLA) in Washington, D.C.Brantley serves on the boards of Jesuit High School, the Portland Art Museum and Sisters of Providence Health System. He has also served as Portland director of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and on the boards of the Japan-America Society of Oregon, National Association of Broadcasters, Portland Advertising Federation, United Negro College Fund, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Oregon Chapter the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and many others.Brantley is a graduate of the University of California-Santa Barbara with a degree in political science.

Q: What is your top priority in creating a more attractive atmosphere for new business in Oregon?

What we need to do is better respond to the needs of business. The business community has asked for some time for us to respond to what they need in an Oregon way. Generally, they need to be able to locate their plants and we haven't done a great job of giving them the sites they need or desire and they've been going to other places.

It's not just the availability of industrial lands. Many cities outside of Oregon have 15 to 20 shovel-ready sites and we're not there. Salt Lake City, Denver and other cities might have 15 or 20 sites ready to go and we might not have any. We have to do a better job of identifying sites and have to do a better job of having permit-ready sites. It might be wetlands, lack of water, sewer or roads holding things up. It might mean getting together with ODOT on a more-regular basis and that's going to take some time.

Businesses can't wait. When you say come back in two or three years, that's a polite way of saying we don't want your business.

Q: In your years in business what was your biggest complaint with people who held the job you now hold? What can you do differently?

In a general sense, we felt for the longest time that the contribution of industry and business to the overall society of Oregon wasn't appreciated. To some degree, it's been taken for granted. People forgot the contribution of business in terms of jobs and everything else for 18 years of prosperity.

Business ought to have a chair at the table and I don't think it does in some cities. Those cities that don't respond aren't going to be players (in recovery), because there are too many other places to go and I don't mean just Washington or Idaho. I'm talking India or China in a global economy.

We need to identify what our goals are and get people back to work. Jobs are important and the credibility of government is very important. We're seeing legislative and financial proposals to get people back to work, but one size doesn't fit all. What works for Medford doesn't necessarily work in Portland. What works in Baker City doesn't necessary work in Tillamook.

We have to identify the top 15 industries and see what jump-starts that industry. Tourism cuts across a lot of the state. The lodging industry has proposed taxing themselves — percent and promoting Oregon. If we get other industries to dovetail with that, we could have a nice campaign. We could go from No. 46 in the country in promoting ourselves and the money would come from the industry, not taxpayers. You name the industry and we're looking for a strategy that works for each one.

Q: What has been missing in Oregon's ability to recruit new industrial investment?

We get back to the ability to respond to business needs. If site people come and say we want to build a plant with 400 jobs in Oregon, it should be a top priority. Guess what? We have no land, maybe one site. It's like going to a car dealer with just one car and you want something different. It's pretty discouraging when you know there is a dealer down the street with 20 or 30 cars.

There are some interesting ideas being kicked around. Take the old mills that are outside of urban growth boundaries. They're sometimes self-contained with water, but don't always have sewers. Many times, they're outside urban growth boundaries and therefore unavailable for development. Clearly, they could be converted into industrial lands.

Q: What are Southern Oregon's prospects for business recruitment during the next four years? Are you able to enhance those prospects?

Number one, all the state can do is create the atmosphere that allows businesses to come in. Businesses have to be in environments in which they can grow. Right now, that's not allowed to happen. When that opportunity comes, we have to be ready. Oregon has to set a table that fits us and jump-start some of things specific to Oregon.

If we set our table we can get those problems behind us. But it won't be done in 90 days to six months. We dug a deep hole and it's going to take a couple years to dig out. Our industrial lands are not going to change in 90 days. We might get a few sites ready, but it's going to take some time as far as policy.

Q: Can California's economic woes, which seem much greater than ours, be turned into a gain for Oregon?

California has to cut &

36;34.8 billion in the next 18 months. That's such a staggering number. But some say it's actually closer to &

36;26 billion.

I don't wish woes on anybody. For some time, people said California's unemployment had a direct effect on Oregon's employment rate. That implied Oregon didn't have a strong-enough economic engine.

We've got to say this is the way we do it, and protect our quality of life. If we do things right, we can get our arms around this problem. Oregon is still small and agile enough to turn the ship-of-state around much quicker than other states can.

Businesses, large or small, look for predictability of the approval process, energy and taxes. If there's predictability, they'll say that's a big plus. But we are competing with Nevada, Utah, Idaho and other states that are looked upon as pretty business-friendly We have to get to that place if want business to respond to those needs.

Q&A appears Mondays on the Mail Tribune's Business page. It provides local leaders an opportunity to address timely issues in the business community.

To suggest a subject for this column, please contact business reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail