The state of Oregon is moving forward with a bill that could have significant implications for the timber industry. The bill, which would streamline the process for designating industrial land, has been making its way through the state legislature and lawmakers are hoping to get it signed into law before U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo visits early next month.
The bill has gained momentum in recent weeks thanks to support from both Democrats and Republicans who see it as a way to boost economic growth in rural areas. Under current law, it can take months or even years for land to be designated as industrial – a process that often involves public comment periods and environmental impact studies.
If passed, the new legislation would create an accelerated process for designating industrial land, allowing companies in industries such as lumber and paper production to move more quickly on expansion projects. Proponents of the bill argue that this will help create jobs and spur economic development across Oregon.
"We need to make sure our businesses have every advantage they can get," said Republican State Senator Betsy Johnson. "This legislation will help level the playing field so we can compete with other states when it comes to attracting new businesses."
Supporters of the bill also say that faster designation processes could help address some of the challenges facing Oregon's struggling timber industry. In recent years, declining demand for paper products has led many mills across rural parts of the state to close down or lay off workers.
"Anything we can do to make it easier for these companies to operate is going to be good news," said Democratic State Representative Pam Marsh. "We're hoping this legislation will lead directly to more investment in our communities."
Lawmakers are now waiting on Governor Tina Kotek's signature before sending the bill over for consideration by Secretary Raimondo during her upcoming visit. If all goes well, proponents hope this new legislation will be one step towards bringing more economic growth to Oregon's rural areas and helping the state's timber industry rebound.