PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With just a few weeks away the election, two of the top three candidates for governor in Oregon detailed their plans when it comes to economic development, especially when it comes to the Portland metropolitan area.
While there have been plenty of political ads when it comes to stances on gun control, homelessness, or reproductive rights, Monday’s forum focused on four major economic issues impacting the state: business growth, workforce, housing and transportation.
Hosted by Western Economic Alliance, the gubernatorial candidate forum focused on the issues impacting the greater tri-county region surrounding Portland, as well as issues with widespread impact around the state. One of those was the struggle for businesses to find adequate workforce.
Unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson proposed focusing on career and technical training as a viable option, compared to four-year degrees as many grapple with crippling student loan debt.
“We need to make sure we’ve got the proper instruction in line with the proper needs of business, and encourage young people to find that niche that satisfies their professional desire and grow in that position,” said Johnson. “I think we need to start younger and make it obvious to people that a career in an apprenticeship or starting in an apprenticeship or going into career technical education is as valuable or as valuable to some people as a four-year degree.”
Meanwhile, Democratic candidate Tina Kotek suggested a combination of options like technical training and college, first starting with the state’s Student Success Act, giving a solid start foundation before the next step after high school.
“Community colleges will be an important part of the workforce dynamic for me. I think it’s important to know what kind of jobs we need,” said Kotek. “I think we’re going to have to do that sector by sector to make sure the workforce is there. Another thing is making sure we are fully implementing the Student Success Act.”
Another hot topic impacting the economy, affordable housing and enough of it. Both candidates agreed on coming up with solutions to get construction done more quickly and with fewer costs.
“Housing inventories are at a record low, rents and house prices are accelerating. Builders tell me it can take just as long to get something permitted as it does to build it. That’s simply ridiculous,” said Johnson.
With a need for people to afford homes in the first place as rental rates grow, Johnson proposed financial literacy programs for people to work on home ownership, while Kotek suggested more options like townhomes, beyond stand-alone homes.
“Working with our home builders who incentive different types of first-time homes, so people can get into home ownership and then build that wealth that allows them to buy and move onto the next home,” said Kotek.
Beyond workforce and housing, the candidates also discussed the need for more bus routes and transportation beyond the metropolitan region and into rural areas, along with plans to bring more businesses to Portland that will stay.
According to Westside Economic Alliance, the Republican candidate for governor, Christine Drazan, was confirmed to also attend but says her campaign reached out Sunday night to say she had a last-minute scheduling conflict. KOIN 6 reached out to her campaign for comment on tonight’s discussion topics, but they replied with “her vision for leading Oregon in a new direction is available in its entirety at www.christinefororegon.com.”
Drazen appeared in a Fox News segment shortly after the forum was scheduled to end.