By editorial board • 

Recent job losses lend urgency to efforts to draw new industry

The recent sequence of job reductions in Yamhill County is worthy of some concern. Hopefully, it will spur a renewed effort on the part of local leaders, in both the public and private sectors, to make economic development a primary issue. 

Still reeling from the loss of jobs from the massive Evergreen International Aviation collapse, and subsequent exodus of the short-lived McMinnville Erickson Helicopters venture, McMinnville was dealt yet another blow this week when Cascade Steel announced it would be laying off 70 workers. And hundreds of jobs have been lost in neighboring Newberg in recent weeks, with closure of the WestRock paper mill and elimination of dozens of positions at Climax Portable Machining & Welding Systems.

Our hearts go out to the families affected by these decisions. May they find to new opportunities quickly to provide for theirs.

Looking at the big picture, the region should be able to roll with those punches. In May of last year, county unemployment reached its lowest point since 2007, at 4.8 percent. It has since been hovering around 5 percent — a very respectable figure.

At year’s end, the county’s non-farm employment was 29,270. The top sectors were manufacturing at 7,150, government at 5,010, health care and social assistance at 4,520, retail trade at 3,470, leisure and hospitality at 3,350, professional and business services at 1,900, and financial activities at 1,360.

A diversified economy and workforce is important. But we must not lose sight of that nurturing our manufacturing core is paramount. Jobs in sectors like tourism and high-tech tend to arise naturally in today’s world, but adding jobs in manufacturing requires concerted, collaborative effort.

In June, McMinnville hopes to celebrate those efforts as it hosts the Oregon Economic Development Association’s summer conference. It’s a fitting time, as the McMinnville Economic Development Partnership reflects on its 10 years of work.

We can also take the occasion to celebrate the 60-year history of McMinnville Industrial Promotions, a community-backed for-profit organization. Created as the region’s primary arm for the fostering of industrial development, MIP was created in response to staggering job loss in the 1950s.

The current economic outlook is better than that of the ‘50s. Still, lessons learned from that effort should help guide us as we ponder the how and why of local industrial promotion. It takes buy-in on the party of all major stakeholders to ensure the continued health and vitality of our community.

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