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During the past two decades, Oregon has attempted to make the transition from a resource-based economy to a more mixed manufacturing and marketing economy, with an emphasis on high technology. Oregon’s hard times of the early 1980s signaled basic changes had occurred in traditional resource sectors - timber, fishing, agriculture - and the state worked to develop new economic sectors to replace older ones. Most important was the state’s growing high-tech sector, centered in the three counties around Portland.

Oregon employment was impacted by a loss of exports to Asia, in part by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Between 1999 and the middle of 2004, the U.S. government issued 168 Trade Adjustment Assistance certifications relating to Oregon layoffs. These certifications qualify laid-off workers for special help finding work. The Trade Act programs, Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), and Alternative Trade Adjustment Assistance (ATAA), help individuals who have become unemployed as a result of increased imports from, or shifts in production to, foreign countries.

In addition to TAA, the U.S. government operated another program called NAFTA-TAA to help workers regain employment after the loss of a job related to NAFTA. NAFTA decreased trade barriers between Canada, the United States, and Mexico, so layoffs covered by this program were limited to those related to trade with and production shifts to Canada and Mexico.

Oregon's major sources of farm income are greenhouse products, wheat, cattle (huge herds graze on the plateaus E of the Cascades), and dairy items. Hay, wheat, pears, and onions are important, and the state is one of the nation's leading producers of snap beans, peppermint, sweet cherries (orchards are particularly numerous in the N Willamette Valley), broccoli, and strawberries. Oregon has developed an important and growing wine industry since 1980.

The state's 30.7 million acres (12.4 million hectares) of rich forestland (almost half the state) comprise the country's greatest reserves of standing timber; huge areas have been set aside for conservation. Wood processing was long the state's major industry; Douglas fir predominates in the Cascades and western pine in the eastern regions. Since 1991 many areas have been closed to logging in order to protect endangered wildlife. Nevertheless, Oregon has retained its title as the nation's foremost lumber state, producing more than 5 billion board feet a year. Other major products are food, paper and paper items, machinery, and fabricated metals. Printing and publishing are important businesses. In recent decades Oregon (now sometimes called “Silicon Forest”) has become home to many computer and electronic companies; growth in this sector has offset job losses in the timber industry.

Abundant, cheap electric power is supplied by numerous dams, most notably those on the Columbia River—Bonneville Dam, The Dalles Dam, and McNary Dam. The John Day Dam is one of the largest hydroelectric generators in the world. The dams also aid in flood control and navigation. The Bonneville Dam, in the steep gorge where the Columbia River pierces the Cascades, enables large vessels to travel far inland, and although river traffic is less vital than formerly, the Columbia River cities still serve as transport centers for a vast hinterland to the east.

Oregon's river resources are one of its greatest assets. Its salmon-fishing industry, centered around Astoria, is one of the world's largest; other catches are tuna and crabs. Although mining is still underdeveloped, Oregon leads the nation in the production of nickel.

Oregon's beautiful ocean beaches, lakes, and mountains make tourism another important industry. Major attractions are the Oregon Caves National Monument, Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks, and McLoughlin House National Historic Site (see National Parks and Monuments, table); Crater Lake National Park is a famed destination. There are 13 national forests, one national grassland, and more than 220 state parks.

More Info

Oregon, Economic and Community Development Department

Oregon Blue Book

Source: Oregon Economic and Community Development Department
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