Commerce is generally defined as the sale or exchange of goods and commodities between different regions or countries. Decisions made in the name of commerce in one region can have far reaching affects on the prosperity and qualify of life in another. The sale of resources like raw timber or chromite, while providing a few local jobs, often redistributes the profits or wealth from those resources out of the area instead of reinvesting it locally.
Economic development efforts that focus on attracting industry dependent on the sale and exchange of commodities outside of the area while ignoring cottage industries and eco-tourism leaves the area vulnerable to market vagaries well beyond local control. A business decision made by a handful of executives in Federal Way, WA or Perth, Australia can have a major impact on our local economy unless we learn to be self reliant.
News that Roseburg Lumber had laid off a combined total of two hundred plus jobs in Coos and Douglas counties came right on the heels of an announcement the Coos Bay Rail Line would declare an emergency to expedite repairing the line by the end of June. It seems Roseburg Lumber wanted to take advantage of an opportunity to ship wood chips out of the area and required the taxpayers help. Coincidentally, we now learn that Roseburg Lumber has purchased a particle board factory, Flakeboard, in Simsboro, Louisiana. According to the company, the recent layoffs are because of an overstock of plywood and unrelated to the Flakeboard acquisition which brings the company geographically closer to a new market segment. Wood chips are used in the manufacture of particle board.
At a recent chamber luncheon a presenter, Mark Wall, showed a picture of the Oregon Resources (ORC) processing plant saying this is what “spending” $50 million in Coos County looks like. Unfortunately, the $50 million was not spent in Coos County. Most of it was spent elsewhere and is simply parked here on a piece of dirt near Bunker Hill where it is exempted from property taxes for years to come. The profits ORC expects to earn from extracting chromite and other minerals in the area will also not be spent here. Instead, these profits will be distributed to shareholders as far away as Australia.
The crumbs left behind from either of these operations are not likely to justify the taxpayer investment and may cause negative job growth. One study suggests the real worth of Coastal Oregon is in its natural ecosystems.
The coastal economy is not, however, heavily dependent on natural resource extraction, either directly, or through processing of raw materials such as fish and timber. Instead, we argue in this paper that the economy is much more dependent on aesthetic beauty and intactness of the natural environment for nature-based tourism and high quality of life that draws both retirees and entrepreneurs.
While tourism is sometimes derided for providing only low paying jobs, energy efficient and independent communities like Malmo, Sweden have been able to combine eco-tourism with higher paying jobs in the renewable energy industry.