Time to reverse the loss of manufacturing

Nov 25, 2015

Esco Corp.'s announcement this month that it plans to close a production plant in Northwest Portland and lay off almost 250 people is merely the latest example of weakness in Oregon's manufacturing sector.

Manufacturing layoffs are hardly unique to Oregon. But because of the state's traditional reliance on manufacturing to power the economy and its emphasis on "clean" jobs for the future, Oregon faces particularly high obstacles as it searches for ways to create opportunities for blue-collar workers.

Let's review setbacks this year:

• Last month, Newberg's SP Fiber Technologies announced plans to indefinitely close a pulp and paper plant recently acquired by WestRock Co. of Richmond, Virginia. The move could result in about 200 layoffs. The decisions in Newberg have to concern employees of other manufacturers that have been sold recently. The list includes Precision Castparts, Planar Systems and NexPlanar.

• Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, after originally applauding Pembina Corp.'s choice of Portland as a site for a propane export terminal, revoked his support and asked the company to pull its application. Since then, he has been working tirelessly to send the message that fossil fuels companies should stay away — culminating in a City Council vote to oppose any new infrastructure for the storage or transportation of fossil fuels.

• The Port of Portland lost its two largest container shipping lines as a labor dispute that started in 2012 continued to make it difficult for companies to get ships loaded and unloaded in a timely manner. The loss of service affects a wide range of businesses, including manufacturers who export products.

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