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No taxpayer funds for log exports

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Posted: Friday, July 13, 2012 10:05 am | Updated: 4:18 pm, Mon Aug 6, 2012.

I believe private land owners should have the right to sell their logs to the highest bidder, even if it means sending them offshore. However, I don’t believe that Oregon tax monies should be used for subsidizing infrastructure projects that can affect free market trade.

The Port of Newport has applied for and been recommended for Connect Oregon IV funds. These funds come from Oregon tax payers’ and lottery monies – our dollars, yours and mine -- to improve Oregon’s transportation infrastructure, legislated by state government. The Port of Newport wants to improve their terminal facility with the likely result of exporting logs to Asia. Most letters supporting the Port’s Connect IV application came from companies who benefit from exporting raw logs. One of the support letters states, “our current model will bring the Port of Newport back into the fold of being one of the largest timber export facilities on the west coast...”

I am supportive of local fisherman and other industries in the Newport community, but I believe the Connect IV process should consider the negative impacts to the local economy if these public funds are used to promote the export of raw logs. Port of Newport’s application for public funds doesn’t meet Connect IV criteria of “improving access to jobs and sources of labor” nor “results in an economic benefit to Oregon.” The Port’s Connect IV application falls short of identifying new jobs or retention of existing jobs. Potentially providing a few Port terminal jobs doesn’t outweigh the hundreds of Oregon sawmill jobs that will be put at risk by increasing the volume of raw material that goes overseas. Hampton’s mills in Tillamook, Willamina, and Warrenton provide 500 direct family-wage jobs that could be at risk if availability of raw material continues to shrink. Another 300 indirect jobs could also be affected. And that’s just for Hampton’s operations.

The U.S. housing market is starting to pick up, which is good news for sawmills. Unfortunately, increased log exports are a dark cloud looming over Oregon’s sawmills. Our sawmills only operate at 60% of capacity as expanding log exports to China have made the Pacific Northwest the highest-cost log market in the world. Spending tax payer dollars to send more Oregon logs and jobs overseas doesn’t feel right.

Clue No. 11: We're living in a powder keg and giving off sparks.

The Oregon Transportation Commission is meeting July 18th to hear public comments on the recommendations for projects receiving public funds under the Connect IV initiative. They may think the Port’s receipt of Oregon tax payer funds is a done deal. It’s not. You can weigh in on this issue by writing or emailing the Oregon Transportation Commissioners in care of Jacque.L.CARLISLE@odot.state.or.us and Christopher.J.CUMMINGS@state.or.us. Their final decision will be made August 15th.

Steve Zika is the CEO of Hampton Affiliates, headquartered in Portland, employing over 600 people in its Oregon operations. Hampton Affiliates, 9600 SW Barnes Road, STE 200, Portland, OR 97225 503/203-6497 www.hamtonaffiliates.com

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