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2023: Willamette Valley Economic Development Outlook


Tight Labor Market + Workforce Woes 

At the time of writing this, the current national unemployment rate is holding steady at 3.7%. In Oregon, the rate stands at 4.1%.  

Even with headlines of mass layoffs and hiring freezes, most employers are still struggling to find workers, highly skilled or otherwise. To attract talent, traded sector firms will have to continue to compete with high pay, flexible work arrangements, and supportive work cultures.  

But even with those benefits, we predict workers will still face barriers to full participation in the workforce, such as a lack of affordable housing and childcare.   

The Bright Side 

Public-private partnerships are already building solutions to the barriers mentioned above. For instance, The Newberg Workforce Housing Consortium is finding creative ways to fill the gaps of missing-middle housing in and around Newberg. Also in the Newberg area, Project Oasis has created a model for supplying affordable childcare for workers. Additionally, we will continue to see a strengthening of career technical educational facilities and on-the-job training programs to build sustainable career pipelines.  


Precious Few Industrial Sites 

As many readers know, our region has never been flush with shovel-ready industrial lands due to a combination of topography, tight zoning laws, urban growth boundaries, and strong protections for agricultural and natural lands. Even so, the Willamette Valley continues to be an attractive place where companies can move in or expand. Looking to next year, local government and industry partners will need to think creatively and work together to find new spaces for growth within city limits to avoid employees moving their operations and taking their jobs with them.  


The Bright Side 

From our conversations with industry partners, almost no owner is eager to pull up stakes and find a new home for their business. The high livability of Willamette Valley cities and towns will continue to incentivize large employees to find creative ways to expand as locally as possible. Also, we believe long-vacant buildings will find new tenants, much like the former Tyco building in Dallas was discovered and utilized by Ascentec Engineering.  

High Price of Inputs 

Disrupted, stalled, or broken supply chains will continue to drive up the price of inputs, particularly for those in manufacturing, agriculture, and food processing. As price-takers, growers will be forced to absorb these increases and find new ways to limit their costs in order to stay in business for another season.  

The Bright Side 

Supply chain uncertainty has driven widespread reshoring and localization in a variety of industries for the dual advantages of cost-saving and resiliency. We see this trend continuing with the support of policymakers. For instance, the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners recently awarded three local businesses funds through their Supply Chain Localization Grant program.  




A Heightened Focus on Innovation 

“Innovation” will be a word on repeat in 2023. This last year, the State of Oregon announced its Ten-Year Innovation Plan which included the creation of regional innovation hubs, including one in our region. SEDCOR will be closely involved in the direction of this hub. State and federal resources will be focused on innovation, particularly in rural areas and within traditionally underserved communities. These resources line up perfectly with the work we’ve already done with innovation in the Ag Supply Chain.    

At the end of 2022, SEDCOR was awarded funds by the Small Business Administration to continue our work with our partners at AgLaunch to build farmer-centric innovation. We plan to expand our farmer network, connect ag-tech startups with growers, plus hold events and field tests.  

We’re also excited to help our longtime partners at the Oregon Entrepreneur’s Network host their Oregon Angel Food conference in the Willamette Valley. This will allow local food-based entrepreneurs to connect with buyers, retailers, and investors and grow their businesses.  


The Big Takeaway 

We may see an explosion of ag-centric innovation launching from the rural areas of our region.  


They Just Keep Coming!  

The Willamette Valley continues to attract national and international businesses. Significant projects have broken ground this year and we will continue to see more code-named projects take shape. Site selectors from around the world will keep scheduling tours and view our region as a top option. Additionally, businesses that have already established themselves in our region will continue to expand, adding production capacity and high-paying jobs.  


The Big Takeaway 

Many big firms are continuing to grow and will find out what we at SEDCOR already know: The Willamette Valley is an amazing place to live, work, and do business.  


Homegrown Entrepreneurship 

Our goal is to make The Willamette Valley the best place to dream up a business and make it a reality. Projects like the Indy Idea Hub (which includes a licensed commercial kitchen) in Independence will provide a place for many food-based businesses to perfect their products and refine their brands.  

Our Venture Catalyst program will continue into 2032 with a heightened focus on food-based businesses. Along with support, education, and training, we hope to bring in more funding for startups through venture capital and the continuation and growth of our Mid-Valley Angel Fund.  

This year, we built a partnership with the Latino Business Alliance to launch the Latino Microenterprise Development Program through which we have already held numerous events and trainings. We will reach outside city limits and across cultures to support a diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem.  


The Big Takeaway 

We believe the next big thing is being built in our region right now.   


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