Oregon's Exports Help U.S.
by Laura Fosmire
A banner year for Oregon exports helped send national exports to a record high in 2014, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced Thursday.
But even as the feds crow about Oregon's achievements, West Coast shipping ports are still nursing their wounds from months of slowed productivity caused by tense labor negotiations.
And at the Port of Portland, where the strife was enough to drive away one major shipping company, uncertainty still looms over the future of Oregon exports.
U.S. goods and service exports in 2014 hit $2.35 trillion, a record high, thanks in part to Oregon's $20.9 billion in merchandise exports.
"Exports are critical to economic growth and job creation in communities across the country," U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker said in a press release. "With 95 percent of the world's consumers living outside the United States, opening more market to 'Made in America' goods and services is fundamental to our nation's competitiveness, job creation, and the economic security of our families."
According to the Department of Commerce, the three industries driving Oregon's success included computer and electronic products, agriculture and machinery.
Agriculture alone, a hugely influential industry in the Willamette Valley, accounted for nearly 20 percent of the state's total exports.
But it's also agriculture where Oregon has been taking some of its hardest hits, as export productivity at the Port of Portland plummeted.
For months, workers and terminal operators at all of the West Coast ports were locked in an apparent standoff over negotiating terms of an expired labor contract. In many of the ports, including Portland, productivity slowed to a crawl as a result.
One of the port's largest shipping lines, Hanjin Shipping Co., informed Portland earlier this month that it would cease service effective March 9.
And then, on Feb. 20, the coalition representing the terminal operators announced that it had reached a tentative five-year agreement with the workers union.
Productivity at the other West Coast ports resumed a normal pace as everyone got back to work.
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