Education investments spur economic success

Apr 18, 2011
Educating a work force to obtain family-wage jobs in Oregon is crucial for our state's economic growth. We want our talented young people -- our kids, our grandkids and our families -- to stay and work in Oregon. Right now, by investing in Oregonians, we have an opportunity to win the future for our families by out-building, out-innovating, and out-educating the world. A big part of moving the state forward is ensuring that Oregon has a highly skilled workforce to fuel the state economy. The Oregon Institute of Technology plans to consolidate its four Portland metro-area locations -- established almost 30 years ago -- into a single campus in Wilsonville to support the need for a strong, educated workforce in the state. This will be accomplished without constructing a new building, but by utilizing the former InFocus headquarters for an investment of $20 million in lottery bonds, less than half of what it would cost to build a new facility. Bringing together OIT's highly respected health care, engineering and technology programs under one roof will provide many advantages for students, businesses, and metro-area communities, and make OIT a primary force in creating Oregon's future. Why should Oregon move forward with this project during tough economic times? Because this is exactly the type of educational investment that creates jobs and helps Oregonians in our quest for higher-wage and family-wage employment. More than 90 percent of OIT's graduates obtain family-wage jobs or pursue advanced degrees within six months of graduation, earning an average starting salary of $55,000. These graduates have the potential to generate millions of dollars in additional tax revenue to the state economy. Existing employers in our region -- such as Mentor Graphics, FLIR Systems, Intel, Boeing and others -- hire OIT graduates, and the Wilsonville campus will provide the opportunity to enhance these partnerships even further. OIT is not a large institution, but it has a huge economic impact. Its graduates are predominantly employed in the advanced-technology and health care industries, increasing the number of well-educated and skilled graduates available locally to employers who don't have to go out of the state or country to find the talent they need. There is already broad support for the OIT Wilsonville campus. Gov. John Kitzhaber has included the project in his budget plan. The Wilsonville City Council and the Clackamas Economic Development Commission have expressed support for the project. And the State Board of Higher Education voted to include the consolidated campus project in the capital budget proposal it provided to the governor and Legislature. With support from the Legislature, the state can provide the opportunity for Oregonians to prepare themselves for a variety of health care, technology and green jobs by supporting this vital project at OIT as part of the higher education budget for all our universities. Powering out of this recession and stabilizing the state economy will happen only with innovative, efficient investments that ensure a diverse, highly skilled workforce able to create, attract and retain jobs and companies in Oregon. OIT's campus consolidation in Wilsonville is one step forward in achieving a stronger Oregon. Martha Schrader is a former Clackamas County commissioner and state senator. William T. Buckley is a founding shareholder of Buckley Law PC and a former member of the Clackamas Economic Development Commission.
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