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Other Views: Merger could be a plus

Excerpted from The Bend Bulletin

About 14 years ago, business interests in Oregon got a divorce. The Associated Oregon Industries split off from the Oregon Business Association. There have been discussions that they should again join forces. That could be good for Oregon.

As Willamette Week reported, the two groups have lost many of the recent arguments about regulating Oregon's economy to Our Oregon, a union-funded advocacy group. A July 30 letter from 13 of the state's largest employers urges a merger.

"The need for a unified business voice has never been clearer or more timely," the letter says. "Invalidation of the 2013 PERS reforms, the failure of our Legislature to pass a transportation package, and the potential for high-stakes ballot measures in 2016 have heightened our concern for the future of business in Oregon."

There is not one right answer to regulating and shaping Oregon's economy. Our Oregon doesn't have it. AOI and the OBA don't have it. But a lopsided battle with an effective group representing union interests and struggling groups representing business helps produce lopsided results.

Everyone moans about the state's low per-capita income and Oregon's unsatisfactory performance in education. What is the best way to turn those things around?

Of course, a merger of AOI and OBA guarantees nothing. Oregon businesses must wage their debate with sophistication, polling, social media, grassroots mobilization and money or they will continue to be specialists in failure. And Our Oregon will continue to dominate. Oregon's economic policies will look like they all came from the same narrow place.