No sure prediction

The speaker at Monday’s Salem Area Chamber of Commerce forum, starting a talk billed as Oregon’s economic future in 2023, declared that there was no sure way of predicting it.

Speaking was Angela Wilhelms, president and chief executive officer of Oregon Business and Industry (OBI). Her talk, delivered at the Salem Convention Center, was one in a series of the Chamber’s forum. 

“It is the private sector that drives what we do,” Wilhelms said. The organization she heads consists of about 1,600 companies all over Oregon, she added.

Noting that by occupation, lawyers and lobbyists are at the bottom of the trust scale, she told her audience she was both.

Wilhelms’ first prediction was that inflation will continue. Despite its drop to 7.1%, she said, it is still bad. She added that OBI’s immediate goal is to see that inflation is not exacerbated, and she predicts that interest rates will keep rising.

“We watch national security issues,” she said. She gave semiconductors as an example and said, “We must remind state officials what they do for businesses.”

Turning to the politically split Congress, she called for monitoring it to keep the executive from being too active with regulation.

“On the positive side, recent investment can help Oregon,” Wilhelms said. She noted that construction and manufacturing can help industry.

“The state can show the federal government that we are ready,” she said. She reminded the audience that several states are competing for semiconductors.

Stating what OBI is focusing on, she said that the organization is working to keep thousands of people from harming business; that Oregon’s tax burden is greater than those of California, Washington, and Idaho; that OBI took a long road show around the state in August 2022; and that the group is looking at several projects to improve the state, especially the Interstate Bridge.

Wilhelms called for people to get involved in recycling issues.

“It is grueling work,” she said of OBI’s activities, “and it cannot be done without the support of people like you.” She urged her listeners to keep making their concerns to legislators.

Also at the forum, Chamber president-elect Alan Rasmussen presented the Spirit of Salem Award to Raquel Moore-Green, who had just ended her time in the Oregon House of Representatives.