A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Now that’s ‘economic development’!

Written January 26th, 2015 by Hasso Hering
The Albany council and others get ready Monday to talk about training for local industrial jobs.

The Albany council and others get ready Monday to talk about training people for local jobs.

It’s hard to think of a more direct form of “”economic development” than what the Albany City Council has now agreed to spend $2.9 million to support.

At its work session Monday, attended by just about every mover and shaker in Albany-area industry and vocational education, the council voted 5-1 to support a request for up to $2,901,222 to buy specific pieces of equipment that Linn-Benton Community College will use to train people for jobs in manufacturing that seven local companies say they have a hard time filling, especially as their plants expand.

The industries expect to have 1,072 openings in the next five years  — they didn’t say how they could be that specific — and President Jim Merryman of Oregon Freeze Dry said the companies are committing themselves to hire graduates of the LBCC training that will be made possible by the new machines. Their main need, the industries say, is for employees trained in nondestructive testing or NDT, certain kinds of welding, machine tools, and mechatronics, a branch of engineering that combines electronics with other disciplines. Besides Freeze Dry, the industries are ATI Wah Chang, Viper Northwest, Selmet, L&M Fab, National Frozen Food, and ATI Pacific Cast Technologies.

Jim Merryman of Oregon Freeze Dry explains the program.

Jim Merryman of Oregon Freeze Dry explains the program.

The money will come from the economic development portion of Albany’s Pepsi settlement fund, and it will reimburse LBCC once each specified machine is bought. Councilor Dick Olsen said he liked the idea of training for industrial jobs, but he voted no because he would rather that the money be lent instead of given to the college. The other councilors supported the program with great enthusiasm.

Albany set aside about $5 million for economic development after, in 2010, it received $18.5 million in cash from a subsidiary of PepsiCo because the company had reneged on a deal to build a Gatorade factory and bottle plant in town.

The industries worked on the idea for the training program and the funding request together with the college and the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce. They presented a request for more than $4 million last summer but whittled it down since then and also answered some questions the council raised. Among the answers: The businesses and LBCC will fund the staffing for the program as well as pay for maintenance on the machines along with upgrades and any changes necessary later. Also, “all of us,” Merryman said, signed a letter promising to hire the people coming out of the program.

The council chamber was filled with business and industry representatives as well as executives of LBCC. There was also Larry Labbe, who said he came down from Polk County and whose card identifies him as a division manager for TechCorr, a “full service visual and non-destructive testing” company. He got up and, to general  applause, said he was impressed by this Albany effort at workforce development. And he announced he was looking for a spot to open an Albany branch.

The council next will consider a formal resolution listing what it agreed to on Monday, and City Attorney Jim Delapoer then will prepare a contract between the city and LBCC to cover the details. It sounded as though the program would get going by the summer of 2016.

One of the useful details that came out of Monday’s presentation: These technical industrial jobs often pay better than many jobs you can only get with a four-year university degree. (hh)

6 responses to “Now that’s ‘economic development’!”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Local governments are allowing the powerful and well-connected to legally plunder public money. This is called crony capitalism, Albany-style.

    Whatever happened to business owners risking their own capital in pursuit of market reward? Whatever happened to business owners investing their own money to attract and train skilled workers? The new norm is for the crony to elbow his way to the front of the trough and demand public money. The new norm is for the crony to demand subsidies in the form of grants and forgivable loans. The new norm is for the crony to enrich himself and grow his wealth by accepting money not earned. The new norm is for the crony to exploit his connections with local governments to obtain government-provided advantage.

    Legal plunder is the crony’s lifeblood. They make money the modern way – hand out and palm up.

    This form of “partnership” is the antithesis of free market capitalism.

    • Jim Engel says:

      Ever feel like the Lone Ranger my friend? This is the same council of whom (3) got re-elected yet once again. Guess the tax paying public puts up with it. BUT, we did show them last year that if voters have a chance to vote it’s a resounding NO! Can’t figure then why the re-election?? JE

    • Bob Woods says:

      LBCC educates people. People with new skills who make themselves more desirable to businesses as employees. They can work wherever they find a job that they want. That employers in Albany are seeking those kind of people is only so much the better. If employers out of the area offer to pay more, then Albany businesses will need to compete.

      The blindness to the potential impact on these people’s lives shows the ultimate shortsightedness you regularly exhibit. I well remember your call for the elimination of the Greater Albany Public Schools system. You want all education through government to be abandoned, and turned over to private companies so that the access to education, and the quality received, is governed by the ability to pay.

      The idea that business should train all their employees is so out of touch with reality to be laughable. INTEL does not train people to be electronic engineers. Allegheny does not train people to be materials scientists.

      McDonalds does train people how to build hamburgers and wash dishes. I guess that’s your vision for the future of America.

      Education is the way to truly better your life. The days where all you needed was a strong back are long gone. And strong backs only served you while you were young.

      If Albany wants to continue to grow and prosper, education is the key to unlocking the door.

      • Bill Kapaun says:

        IF you want to educate people, you make it MORE AFFORDABLE. Pouring money into it HASN’T WORKED!

  2. John Jay says:

    Gordon, I’m as fiscally conservative as anyone, but you just want to live in trash because you don’t want to pay for anything. I work too hard to live in trash. I don’t want to have to drive out of town for a nice night out, I want to my town to have nice amenities.

    I get it, you lived your whole life, used up all the resources this town and many like it have and now you don’t want to maintain anything. Maybe Albany has outgrown you, perhaps a lesser area would be to your liking, lots of areas available that are stagnant, I just don’t think Albany is one of them.

  3. Jim Clausen says:

    $2.9M… Meanwhile the sewer plant still needs fixing…


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