"Protect the 'seed corn' of Oregon's future economy," the headline from the March 15 Oregonian editorial section, is an excellent lead-in to the problems of the Oregon higher education system, and, to a greater extent, economic development.
One point that has to be made: You cannot have economic development without education, and you cannot have education without economic development. In fact, both economic development and education go hand in hand - they are the same issue.
Oregon citizens need the ability to realize positive economic upward mobility in their own or nearby communities. The best way to judge this is "the capacity to buy a home." When you have a high percentage of families who have good jobs and can afford to buy a home, then we will achieve economic and educational success and community stability. This success and achievement will quickly translate into a better quality of life and opportunity for everyone.
To achieve economic and educational upward mobility, Oregon urgently needs an economic development program that actively promotes small business: small business expansion, small business retention and small business recruitment. It is the small business needs that will drive education, which in turn will drive economic development.
To accomplish this requires the capacity to reach out beyond state borders and make Oregon the best small business state in the U.S. In the end, it is all about creating a favorable business and education climate which will provide economic stability for all communities.
Quite often people look at the Fortune Magazine 100 and 500 business listings as a measure of achievement. I don't care about the listings, they are not worth the trouble to go after. I want Oregon to create a welcoming place for the Fortune 1,000 companies, which are heavily weighted into technology and innovation. This category is where the economic bread and butter is, and in the end, will drive Oregon into educational excellence and economic success.
The basis for seeking opportunity requires a creative and outward looking thought process coupled with the long term political stamina to get the job done. The essential core values that will be needed are flexibility, agility and the ability to think "outside the box." None of what I stated requires a focus group, a visioning session, or hiring a carpetbagger consultant to prance about the meeting room like a sick medieval court jester act. All that is required is a willingness to take chances and knowing what you are doing is not for yourself, but for future generations.
In the end, it is all about developing a positive forward thinking mindset to create and promote opportunities for all communities, while consciously avoiding the instant gratification of self-serving populism dished out by glad handing political operatives. Once everyone understands the only way is up - and it will take some hard work - then we can start the long-term process of rebuilding our economy and education system.